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Folger McKinsey Faculty's Excitement Culminates In Long-Awaited Return To Renovated Facility

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April 4, 2012

Story And Photos By Meredith Thompson

Opened in 1958 and renovated in 1970, Folger McKinsey Elementary School’s (FMES) most recent overhaul has reached an early completion. In addition to 30 state-of-the-art classrooms, a courtyard and office spaces, the construction - a revitalization of the gutted original structure - has added a new full-court gym with a climbing wall, a cafeteria and an auditorium with a stage.

What’s the best thing the new facility offers? “Room!” laughed Principal Susan Bachmann, referring to the over 30,000 square feet of added space and increased enrollment capacity. “Everyone can fit under one roof – we won’t need the six temporary trailers we had before.”

“We’re really just excited to be in our new building,” added Jim Whisman, a fifth-grade math and science teacher. He explained that the teachers had all anxiously started packing with the help of parent volunteers two weeks before moving in over spring break, which has been extended for students until April 12.

“I’m just looking forward to having my own walls that reach the ceiling,” fifth-grade language arts teacher Katie Cullen joked, explaining that it was her first year teaching at Folger McKinsey. “It’s all new to me, because it will be my very own.”

Jackie Torrelli, a fifth-grade language arts teacher in her eleventh year at FMES, shared her anticipation for the outdoor facilities at the new school. “We’ll have a courtyard – we can take the kids outside for outdoor education!” The courtyard, located in the center of the building, offers students access to brick pathways, new trees and lush grass from the science lab, art room and hallways. Additionally, students can look forward to playing on a new playground and ball fields in the near future.

Whisman, who conducts two or three experiments each week while educating fifth-graders about environmental science, physics, chemistry and motion science, dreamed of his new science lab in the months before the move-in. “I’ll be able to set up experiments and have parents come in,” he stated enthusiastically. “There’s lots of storage space and technology, and a nice teacher’s desk. The lab has sinks and new microscopes!”

“The new school will be a green school because of the construction materials, structure, water management system, and courtyard,” Bachmann explained. The staff of Folger McKinsey, which is currently a national and state blue-ribbon school, has applied for the green-ribbon status as well. Out of the 25 Maryland schools to apply, FMES was one of four chosen to go before the Board of Education for selection.

Folger McKinsey’s dedication to environmental responsibility extends beyond their green facility. Students learn about environmental science in the classroom, where they are encouraged by their teachers to recycle.

When students return from their extended spring break, they will find hallways lined with large lockers and spacious classrooms and labs furnished with new desks, sea-foam green chairs and smart boards – today’s equivalent of whiteboards which allow children to interact by manipulating things on the board.

As enthralled as FMES teachers are to nest in their new space, they are all grateful for their temporary arrangements during the construction. “Chesapeake Bay Middle School has been so welcoming, and their students were respectful to our students,” said fifth-grade math and social studies teacher Sue Grieve, gratitude reflected in her tone. “They made our transition very easy.”

Folger McKinsey will host a private ribbon cutting on April 16, but parents interested in seeing the new campus are encouraged to attend the first-annual Environmental Science Fair at 6:00pm on April 23, during which students’ science projects will be displayed.

For more information on the renovation or programs offered at Folger McKinsey Elementary School, visit

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