Middle School Committee Whittles Down Options
At the first site-selection meeting, members eliminated 13 locations.
A site-selection committee eliminated 13 possible locations for a new Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster middle school at its meeting Wednesday, leaving 25 public and private candidate sites for the school.
Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr in November proposed re-opening a controversial site-selection process for a second middle school in the crowded B-CC cluster.
The previous site-selection committee, convened last year, recommended a site in Rosemary Hills-Lyttonsville to the Board of Education. But after neighbors protested converting the park into a school, the board chose Rock Creek Hills instead. That decision lead to the summer-long feasibility process for the site, which was marked by controversy as neighbors and officials questioned MCPS's transparency and civic engagement.
Wednesday marked the re-opening of the process, which will re-examine potential locations for the new school.
The 42-member committee voted to disqualify sites that house functioning elementary schools and sites smaller than 10 acres.
The votes came after Bruce Crispell, Montgomery County Public Schools director of long-range planning, explained that building the new middle school on an elementary site would require the construction of a new elementary school someplace else, delaying the process by at least two years.
Mike Shpur, an architect for MCPS, said that 10 acres is the minimum amount of space needed to construct an adequate middle school, leading to the committee's vote to trim smaller sites from the list.
At the meeting, facilitated by staff from the Montgomery County Conflict Resolution Center, committee members also listed the pros and cons of each remaining public site, and they will eliminate more candidates at the next meeting on Jan. 25.
The group also has 13 private sites to consider, which it will do in closed session in order to preserve MCPS's ability to negotiate if it decides to purchase a private parcel.
The remaining public candidate sites are:
- Rock Creek Hills Park near Kensington
- Rosemary Hills-Lyttonsville Park near Silver Spring
- North Chevy Chase Park
- Lynnbrook Park and the former Lynnbrook Elementary School in Bethesda
- A WSSC parcel in Lyttonsville
- Grace Episcopal School near Kensington
- Norwood Park in Chevy Chase
- Tilden Middle School in Rockville
- Westland Middle School in Bethesda
- Rays Meadow Park in Chevy Chase
- Meadowbrook Park in Chevy Chase
- A Montgomery County bus Lot in Brookville
Aquiring sites on the public list may not be easy for MCPS, however. Most of the candidate parcels are owned by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which, in an April letter from Planning Board Chairwoman Françoise Carrier, said it does not consider siting a school to be reason enough to do away with park land.
The committee will meet three more times, trimming more sites from the list and eventually assigning numerical scores to each option. The group's top sites will then be sent to Superintendent Joshua Starr in February, and he will issue a recommendation to the Board of Education for a March vote.
Starr has said all along that MCPS needs to open the new school by 2017 in order to deal with overcrowding at Westland Middle School and counteract the district's projected enrollment growth. He said the restarted site selection will not delay that goal.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified the Lynnbrook site under consideration. It has been corrected.