The Board of Education wants county planners to move a planned White Flint Middle School and is concerned with the location and size of the school that would serve some 9,800 new units in the area.

On Monday, the BOE agreed to send a letter to the Montgomery County Planning Board highlighting its concerns with plans for the school, which hit a road bump last fall when the landowner balked at donating the land.

The letter was on the recommendation of MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr, who said the school system should advise the Planning Board of its concerns before planners take up more of the redevelopment plan for White Flint Mall.

The 2010 White Flint Sector Plan puts the future school on a 4.2-acre site south of the existing mall. Planners, school officials and county policy makers agreed the school was necessary to support the estimated 410 new elementary students who will come from the full build-out of the Sector Plan.

Lerner Enterprises, which owns and hopes to redevelop White Flint Mall, thinks it’s unfair to have to donate all of the land for the school when only about a quarter of the 9,800 new units will come from its project. Last October, White Flint Mall attorney Robert Brewer said the developer would be willing to sell the land to MCPS or perhaps work a deal to do a partial dedication.

Also at issue is the apparent shrinking space dedicated to the school. According to Starr’s memo:
Since the White Flint Sector Plan was adopted in 2010, it has come to the Board’s attention that the designated White Flint Mall South site is now compromised by revised road alignments. What was originally a 4.2-acre site has been reduced to approximately 3.6 acres. MCPS Department of Facilities Management (DFM) staff evaluated the reduced White Flint Mall South site and has found it to be significantly compromised for the construction of an elementary school.
Starr and the BOE said they were rebuffed when they approached the Planning Department and Montgomery Parks about moving the school site north on the property, where a 2.5-acre school building could back up to the planned 8.5-acre White Flint Neighborhood Park and use the space for playfields:
Since the adopted sector plan currently requires the property to be dedicated in full to the Montgomery County Department of Parks, we anticipated that it would be dedicated in full to MCPS. This dedication would save the county the cost of acquisition of expensive land in the sector plan area; and in addition, the park portion of the site could continue to be available to the public. The collocation of schools with park properties is a common and effective method of land conservation in Montgomery County. This year, 46 elementary schools, 12 middle schools, and 7 high schools are collocated with parks.
The BOE will ask that if the school site can’t be moved, the full 4.2 acres at the preferred site be restored. It will also ask the Planning Board to require the partial dedication equal to the percentage of residential units the White Flint Mall project will provide.