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Eva Turner students tour their temporary school

Charles County, MD -- When Keon Stinnie returns to school Sept. 3, he will ride the bus for the first time, attend classes in a new building and start a new grade. So will most of his classmates.

Stinnie, a third grader, is one of about 375 Eva Turner Elementary School students being relocated this school year to the Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) Transition School. His school, a 40-year-old open space building, is undergoing a renovation and expansion, sending the Turner Tigers to temporary classrooms for the next two years. Turner’s renovation started this summer and should be complete by the start of the 2021-22 school year.

Keon Stinnie and his mother Kenita Stinnie pose with Terrance Dyson Jr. of Swann Transportation before taking a school bus ride to the Transition School for the Eva Turner Elementary School orientation/carnival.

Almost everything at Turner is new this year. Even the principal. Gary Lesko took over as principal on July 1 and was excited to meet his students and their families at an orientation/carnival event on Wednesday. Lesko said the event, which was held at the Transition School, is a Turner tradition he adopted to help make orientation fun and engaging for students. “I took about 40 selfies as part of a scavenger hunt where ‘introduce yourself to the principal and take a selfie with him’ was one of the items,” Lesko said. About 150 people attended the event.

“We had an amazing turnout. Parents were excited and enthusiastic. Students got an opportunity to meet their teacher and more importantly familiarize themselves with the Transition School. Our teachers and staff were extremely well represented,” Lesko said.

The renovation triggers another big change for Turner students who normally walk to school. Students will now ride buses to the Transition School, which is located about 3 miles from Turner. As part of the orientation, Swann Transportation, a CCPS bus contractor, donated two buses to shuttle students and their families to the orientation.

“We believe in supporting our community,” Terrance Dyson Jr., chief operating officer for Swann Transportation, said. “What better way to get the families there [to the Transition School] than on a school bus? You cannot put a cost on something like this. Swann Transportation sees providing this service as an important connection between home and school,” Dyson said.

Turner’s renovation is part of the CCPS Capital Improvements Plan and long term plans to renovate and maintain its older facilities. This school year, students at Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Elementary School move back to their school, which underwent a complete renovation and expansion. Mudd students attended classes at the Transition School for two years during the renovation.

Turner opened in 1979 and includes 64,207 square feet. An addition to the school will add 20,022 square feet, increasing the student capacity from 391 to 542 students. Renovation will enclose open-space classrooms and add a secure entry way at the front of the building. The renovation will upgrade major building systems, like heating and cooling, electrical and plumbing. It will also bring Turner’s spaces up to today’s educational standards and provide learning areas found at newer schools, like a gym, modern media center and additional classroom space. The only part of the school that will remain the same is the full-day kindergarten addition, built in 2011. Cost of the project is estimated at $22 million.

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