A major project to ease overcrowding at Bethesda’s Walt Whitman High School will provide a three-story addition adding space for nearly 400 more students.
The $24.5 million, 75,000-square-foot project is expected to begin in December and involves demolishing the former Whittier Woods Elementary School and Whittier Woods Annex, and replacing them with 18 classrooms, five science labs, a courtyard and dance studio.
Technology education labs will be protected by alarm systems and electronics charging stations will be located throughout the school, most notably in the new courtyard area, architects said.
Without the addition, Whitman would be nearly 275 students over capacity by the 2021-2022 school year. The project is scheduled to be completed in September 2021.
Whitman, named for the American poet, opened in 1962 and underwent addition projects in 1980, 1992, 1999 and 2002, according to school board documents.
“I got to Whitman in July and this project was waiting, so it’s exciting as a new principal to have this as something I hopefully get to shepherd through successfully,” Principal Robert Dodd told the school board. “We’ve frankly outgrown our space and …. across the board it’ll have a positive impact on our school.”
Existing first-floor classrooms will be renovated to accommodate physical education and a redesign of the student drop-off area will separate bus traffic, car traffic and parking areas to relieve congestion during peak hours before and after school.
“Whenever I happen to make the mistake of passing Whitman in the morning, the lineup on Whittier Boulevard is quite long, so this is good,” board vice president Pat O’Neill said.
In the interim, a handful of portable classrooms will be placed in the school’s parking lot, restricting use of about 50 parking spaces, but the project incorporates 130 new parking spaces.
The addition will raise the school’s capacity from 1,866 to 2,262 students.
Space above the third floor will be designated for future expansion, which will raise the school’s capacity to 2,700 students, with 15 new classrooms, a technology education lab and four science labs.
The new addition, approved by the school board last week, will connect to the existing three-story school on two levels, an unavoidable inconvenience, architects said, due to the area’s topography.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org