Whenever Principal Mark Murphy walks by the lobby of George Washington Carver Elementary School, he sees kids gathered around the picture of their future school.
"They're asking: 'Is this our new school? Is it this big?' They are really happy," he said.
After more than a year in a temporary building -- where the cafeteria and the gym swap space and 350 students share a tiny media center -- Carver's children, parents and educators are looking forward to a bigger and better school.
Ten days ago, ground was broken for the new Carver Elementary on 30 acres next to Great Mills High School; the land was donated by a local businessman.
St. Mary's County school officials are hoping to be able to start building more elementary schools soon. Schools official Bradley Clements said the county has received state approval for a site on the eastern side of Indian Bridge Road and has asked for approval for another site in the California area, near the Wildewood neighborhood.
If that site is approved as well, the school board would choose one in January, and work could begin on another elementary school.
Next year at this time, Clements said, they hope to be asking for approval for a site in Leonardtown -- perhaps also donated by a developer.
It's a relief to finally move forward on projects, Clements said. Administrators still have to find more land for schools, "but at least there are some prospects out there."
Carver staff members and students moved to a temporary site from their old school, which was just outside Patuxent River Naval Air Station, because it was too close to the flight path of the jets. It was crowded, too -- even with just 350 students, two trailers were needed in addition to the building. Now the old building, built in the 1950s, has become a storage place for files and a busy site for community and after-school recreation groups.
The new Carver school, which should open for the 2006-07 school year, will accommodate about 540 students. Clements said school officials hope to have tutoring programs with students from the high school next door.
The school will have a science classroom and a media center that is at least five times larger than what the students have now, Murphy said. "What they gain in a new school is updated facilities, more bathrooms, larger fields, more resources at the tips of their fingers, updated technology, all those things. The kids are definitely excited."