Wednesday, September 12, 2012

School Board Approves Plans for Somerset Elementary School

Former Somerset Elementary School bus loop, 2012
September 12, 1961 (51 years ago today): The Prince George's County School Board approved plans for the Somerset Elementary School, a 20 room school to serve residents of the new Belair at Bowie housing development. This decision came 11 months after the Levitt model homes opened on Sussex Lane, and one month before the first Belair at Bowie residents starting moving in.

Somerset Elementary School opened for classes in October, 1962.

Bowie City Council meetings were held at the school in the mid 1960s.

Low enrollment in the mid 1970s forced Prince George's County to close several schools in Bowie.  The 1976-77 school year was the last year for elementary school classes at Somerset, and the school closed for good after being used for special education classes during the 1977-78 academic year.

Single-story townhouses
During the first year that the school sat vacant, nearby residents complained about vandalism, broken beer bottles and "disturbances on the weekends," according to The Washington Post.

A plan to lease the school to Anne Arundel County was considered.  At the same time that enrollment in some Prince George's County schools was declining, enrollment in Anne Arundel County Schools was on the rise.  It was thought that Anne Arundel County could bus students to Somerset until a new middle school opened in 1982.

Somerset Park
Between 1983 and 1985, developer Ken Woodring created Somerset Condominium Park, a complex for independent senior living.  He converted the school building into 29 units, and he built 31 single-story townhouses on the former school grounds.  According to the project's architect, Phillips Schwartz, some former Somerset Elementary School teachers bought units in the building where they used to teach.  Buyers in the new condominium park were typically older residents from the community looking to move to smaller and more modern homes.

Unexpected School Jam Hits County
The Washington Post
September 13, 1961
Anne Arundel Considers Closed Prince George's School
The Washington Post
February 9, 1979

Bowie Seeks Occupant for School
The Washington Post
Thursday, April 19, 1979

Schools as Residences Put the Adventuresome In Class of Their Own
The Washington Post
May 2, 1987

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