About a dozen students from Frederick County’s Rock Creek School saw the site of their future school building Friday morning and helped break ground on it.

Frederick County Public Schools staff, administrators, county and state leaders, and others gathered on the grounds of Walkersville Middle School to mark the official start of construction on the new school.

Before the dirt was shoveled, Rock Creek students shared a song with attendees. Using percussion instruments and talking devices, the students performed “Thank you for being a friend.”

The Rock Creek School provides special education for Frederick County students with severe intellectual, physical, emotional, hearing, visual and learning disabilities, from age 3 to 21.

The current school was built in 1972 and is located near the Golden Mile on the same campus as Waverley Elementary School in Frederick.

“They’re going to have a state-of-the-art building, the kind of space that will really enable them to meet the needs of the students even more,” FCPS Superintendent Terry Alban said. “[It’s] just going to bring immeasurable return on the opportunities for them, for the community.”

The new school is slated to open in the fall of 2021 and will sit on a 27.5 acre site behind Walkersville Middle. The capacity will be 120 students and the new building will include classrooms with wall-to-wall interactive panels, a therapy pool and the first-ever Frederick County recreation center solely designed for students with special needs. The project will cost close to $50 million.

“It is truly designed for learning in any environment...we can capitalize on every moment to make it as real-life as it can be for our students,” Rock Creek principal Katie Buckley said. “It’s going to make a world of difference for our students and our teachers because they’re going to be able to try new things and think outside the box.”

The new building will also provide more space, which according to Buckley, has been a growing need.

She said she is grateful for the school system’s recognition of this need and for prioritizing a small community of students that may sometimes get overlooked.

“It shows a belief and a priority in supporting students with special needs and their families, to give them access to the most current resources and in this case a building that is designed just for our population of students,” Buckley said.

Delegate Ken Kerr (D-Frederick), who previously served on the county school board, said this investment speaks volumes.

“What we’re doing here today is demonstrating our commitment to our community’s most vulnerable,” he told the crowd.

In addition to the Rock Creek School, ground was also broken on the new Urbana Elementary School, which is slated to open next fall.

Families and community members gathered at the Urbana Volunteer Fire Department and signed a beam that will be placed in one of the elevator shafts in the new school.

According to Tiana Haile, community engagement coordinator for FCPS, the beam will not be painted over in order to allow the signatures to remain visible.

Although the groundbreaking took place on Friday, construction of the school has been underway for some time.

“Somebody kind of got here early and started putting the building up already,” Alban told attendees who sat looking up at a two-story foundation already in place.

Urbana Elementary principal Tracy Hillard said she was happy the new school will help alleviate some of the crowding present across the county and will continue to serve a growing community.

“I can’t wait until we open our doors to welcome all of our scholars to learn,” Hillard said. “We are all looking forward to making new memories at Urbana Elementary...and to carry out our mission — learning today, leading tomorrow.”

Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill

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