Home Local Maryland Government Announcement Originally published April 19, 2013



Jared Smith
Office: 410-260-3888
Cell: 585-760-4329



State Invests $30.5 Million in New State-of-the-Art Facility


FRUITLAND, Md. (April 19, 2013) — Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown, joined by Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt, State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lillian Lowery, Salisbury Mayor James Ireton, and other state and local officials, today participated in a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Bennett Middle School in Fruitland. The project is being supported in part by $30.5 million in state funding.
“Today, we’re breaking ground not just on a new Bennett Middle School, but on a new chapter for this community,” said Lt. Governor Brown. “Over the past six years, we’ve made record investments in our schools because we have a responsibility to ensure that all of our children have the opportunity get a good education and succeed. As we look to the future, the new Bennett Middle School will provide a safe and productive environment for both our students and our educators.”

"Few moments in the life of a community hold more promise than the groundbreaking for a new school,” said State Superintendent Dr. Lowery. “This occasion is the culmination of a team effort by the Governor and Lt Governor, local officials, and the citizens of Wicomico County to make this happen. We are excited to be part of this venture to bring state-of-the art classrooms to the children of Salisbury."

The original Bennett Middle School was constructed in 1966. A feasibility study completed in 2005 determined that the existing facility needed to be replaced due to a number of issues including physical limitations of existing structure to accommodate new instructional programs, lack of HVAC, fire suppression, technology systems, and an energy inefficient building enclosure coupled with compliance issues. Additionally, due to overcrowding, the school is currently using twelve portable classroom units.

“The Bennett Middle School family is so excited about the construction of our new building,” said Bennett Middle School Principle Liza Hastings. “The faculty, staff, and parents are passionate about challenging our students every day to be the best that they can be. This project will allow us to reach student needs in all new ways and, as a result, prepare them to be leaders of the 21st century. I am so glad that I am a part of a community that values education, our children, and our future. Our students deserve nothing less!”

The new facility, expected to be completed in August 2015, is designed to support a growing student population and enhance the educational experience by implementing many of the programmatic needs and physical accommodations consistent with a modern, high performance educational environment. Some of the highlighted features include a geothermal ground source heating and cooling system and photovoltaic solar panels. The site plan preserves 4.8 acres of woodland and by using submerged gravel wetlands and rain gardens to preserve local environment and prevent storm water runoff. The school will also be located on a future Shore Transit bus line with  sidewalks connecting to surrounding housing in order to reduce car use and strengthen existing communities. The project has been designed according to U.S. Green Building Design LEED Silver Certification standards.
With the new James M. Bennett High School that opened in 2011, as well as the earlier replacement and renovations of the North Salisbury Elementary School and Prince Street Elementary School, Wicomico County Public Schools have taken significant steps toward achieving a high quality contemporary learning environment.
"The new Bennett Middle School is the result of a tremendous expression of public support from our own community coupled with an unprecedented investment by the O'Malley-Brown Administration on behalf of public school construction. It’s the perfect example of what State and county partnership can achieve when we work together," said County Executive Rick Pollitt.
Despite making more cuts to state spending than any previous administration, Governor O'Malley and Lt. Governor Brown have chosen to make targeted investments in priorities like education and job creation. The FY2014 Budget enacted by the General Assembly includes $325 million for the Public School Construction Program, including $25 million for air conditioning in schools. The total school construction commitment under the O’Malley-Brown Administration to replace temporary learning shacks with modern, state-of-the-art 21st Century classrooms now stands at nearly $2.4 billion.