More sweet than bitter in Bennett Middle move


bennett move

Gary Hammer, who has taught band at Bennett Middle School and at the old Bennett 38 years, good-naturedly calls himself “the last dinosaur” at the school.

But it was the building that was outmoded, not Hammer.

Now he, as well as Principal Liza Hastings, teachers and hundreds of students, are excited to be moving into a new structure, in Fruitland at Allen Cutoff Road.

Hammer and fellow educators have been busy packing and ferrying  after the last day of school Friday, June 5, and heading to the contemporary building,  wired for modern technology and fully air-conditioned.

When the 2015-2016 school year begins in late summer, he’ll have memories of the well-worn band room, and the number that hung on the door, B-19, tucked into his desk drawer, but he isn’t sentimental.

“Every year eighth graders leave and I think you always miss the kids, but the building? Not so much. I think it’s the students and the teachers that make the memories. I could have worked in a shed with those kids and those teachers and still made some wonderful memories,” he said.

“I’m excited about the new building, no doubt,” he said.

Hastings took down the “Principal” sign that hung outside her office and carried it with her as a memento. She was principal four years and assistant principal three years.

“I will miss the memories, the wonderful memories, but I know we’ll make new memories. There is such a great staff and students who went through that old building, but my new office is just unbelievable. It’s just beautiful. The technology in the school is amazing and all the capabilities we will have. The hallways are much more open so it won’t be as crowded and the lockers are wider and taller so students won’t be arguing about who gets the top and who gets the bottom,” Hastings said.

On the last day of school for Bennett, Friday, June 5 – 12 days earlier than other schools in Wicomico — there were some tears as teachers left and Hastings felt a little droplet in her eye.

“But we have been advocating for this new building since before I got to Bennett Middle. I have been working really hard, trying to educated people about why we needed the new building,” she said, citing the eagerness for air conditioning and more space so students aren’t learning in portable classrooms.

The school population, for those in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, is  985. The new Bennett has capacity for 1,200.

The old building, erected in 1966, will be demolished and athletic fields put there.

Once all the teachers have packed educational items and relocated, the decommissioning process will begin at the old site, according to Tracy Sahler, who handles public relations for the school system.

The new office will be open in less than two weeks. This summer, sixth graders will have orientation and upperclassmen will take tours.

On Aug. 15, Oakridge Baptist Church will host a carnival there. The first day of school is Aug. 31.


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