I have been following the status of the second middle school planned for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Cluster very closely. The new school is badly needed in order to relieve severe overcrowding in the cluster, and to finally provide the necessary space to move the sixth graders out of Chevy Chase and North Chevy Chase Elementary Schools and into a middle school where they belong.
The school system conducted two separate site selection processes, which my staff attended. Both of the site selections culminated in the same result: Rock Creek Hills Local Park was identified as the top choice for locating the future school. Maybe not surprisingly, the Park and Planning Commission was not thrilled with the idea of using the property for anything other than a park -- but it acknowledged that the school system does retain "recall rights" per the original transfer agreement that conveyed the former Kensington Junior High site to the Parks Department.
Some of my constituents who live near the park were not thrilled either, to say the least. They filed a lawsuit that challenged the transfer of the property back to the school system. With litigation outstanding, legal staffs at the respective County agencies were reluctant to move forward with the transfer. But on April 23, the Circuit Court dismissed the lawsuit.
With litigation out of the way, I am very pleased that the new middle school is moving forward. Providing adequate facilities is critical to creating an educational environment that allows our students to learn and thrive. I look forward to seeing the new middle school open on its current schedule, in time for the 2017-18 school year.
Bethesda-Chevy Chase Middle School #2 November 21, 2011
Like many of you, I was very surprised to learn that MCPS Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr recommended convening a new site selection process for the new middle school in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Cluster. Given that his FY13-18 CIP recommendations, submitted to the Board of Education the Friday before, made no reference to a new process, this was a particularly unexpected change of course.
Nevertheless, the Superintendent believes a new site selection process can be undertaken without causing delays to the project's expected 2017 completion. I have reiterated to the Superintendent and to my colleagues on the Board of Education that it is absolutely critical this project remains on schedule.
It is also true that the process used by the school system was flawed: notwithstanding that all of the sites under consideration were public sites, the process was not open to the public generally. Instead, selected representatives of the cluster met in the early part of 2011 and worked hard to come up with two top recommendations.
The first choice was nixed when our Planning Board made it clear that they would not allow the use of park land, on which the school system does not retain recall rights, for a new school. The second choice -- Rock Creek Hills Park -- remains viable, but has also been met with resistance, particularly by the immediate neighbors. Unless some unprecedented public/private partnership arises, and can be closed in time, I personally will be surprised (not for the first time obviously) if the new look arrives at a different conclusion.
Nonetheless, I recognize it is the school system's prerogative to make these sorts of calls -- and I know both the Superintendent and the Board of Education share my commitment to providing adequate facilities that give our students the best educational environment to thrive.
Ultimately, my concerns -- that the new middle school provide enough capacity to provide relief to the cluster's severe overcrowding and that the project is completed as soon as possible -- remain the same. It is with these objectives in mind that I hope the new Site Selection Advisory Committee completes its work thoroughly and switfly.
FY12 Budget: District 1 CIP Projects June 2, 2011
The Council considers our Capital Improvements Program (CIP) biannually. And while this is a CIP "off-year", no news is good news, as they say, for District 1 schools. All of our District 1 school CIP projects remain funded and on schedule. To take a look at where your school's project stands, click here.
I am pleased that these projects remain on schedule - these are the classroom additions, renovations, and modernizations that so many of our schools so desperately need to help ensure our students have the learning environment they deserve. In the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Cluster, a "solutions project" at the middle school level was approved to be added so that the cluster is not subject to a building moratorium under the public school adequacy test. A more specific PDF (project description form) for this project is expected to be completed for the FY13-18 CIP once MCPS concludes its feasibility study for the new middle school.
The future North Bethesda Recreation Center is also in the "good news" category. The County Executive, as an off-year CIP amendment, had proposed completely closing out the project. I found this to be unacceptable for a community that has already waited too long for a project called for in their 1992 Master Plan. For that reason, I wrote to my colleagues on the PHED Committee and asked that they reject the County Executive's proposal, and instead ask him to include funding in future years so that the project essentially remains alive. I am pleased that the Council approved an amended PDF for the project that does just that - and I remain confident that, even though it has been a long wait, the residents of North Bethesda will eventually have an alternative to driving to Potomac or Chevy Chase.
A New Middle School in the BCC Cluster April 15, 2011
You may have heard that there are plans for a new middle school in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Cluster. The new middle school will address what is now and what it is expected to be severe overcrowding at Westland Middle School and will allow the sixth grades to move out of North Chevy Chase and Chevy Chase Elementary Schools.
Montgomery County Public Schools convened a Site Selection Committee that was comprised of numerous PTA representatives; MCPS staff; elected officials from Somerset, Chevy Chase, and Friendship Heights; Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission staff; and County staff. The Committee reviewed an extensive list of potential sites that would serve the cluster - some sites the Committee found to be prohibitively small; others presented challenges with accessibility; still others might only exacerbate current traffic issues in the area.
Ultimately, the Committee has recommended the Rosemary Hills / Lyttonsville Local Park site. According to their report, the site "offers the best range of site characteristics including access, cost, availability, location, and consistency with LEED criteria." The Board of Education will take action on this recommendation at their meeting on April 28. If you would like to weigh in on their recommendation, I would encourage you to contact your Board of Education members before that time. You can read the Committee's report, which discusses how they arrived at their recommendation, here.