School Notes: Board of Ed Members Say New School Site Selection Should Begin in WJ Cluster

School Notes: Board of Ed Members Say New School Site Selection Should Begin in WJ Cluster

Plus: Schools get creative with pilot courses; students invited to learn about pet therapy, sleep hygiene

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Board member Pat O'Neill

Via Montgomery County Board of Education

School board member Pat O’Neill said this week that she wants to get the ball rolling on selecting a site for a seventh elementary school in the Walter Johnson Cluster.

A parent representing PTAs in the cluster on Monday voiced disappointment that the process hadn’t yet begun, given the growing student population in the area.

School board member Jeanette Dixon responded that she and O’Neill planned to do something about that.

“We have heard you about looking for that elementary site, and I think Ms. O’Neill will offer a motion at the next opportunity, and I will second it,” Dixon said.

O’Neill later confirmed that she plans to introduce an amendment that would include the study process in the superintendent’s school construction plans. With most of the cluster’s elementary schools already crowded, O’Neill said, it’s high time to start thinking about opening a new school, especially before development projects worsen the space constraints.

“I’m very concerned that we’re going to be behind the 8-ball,” O’Neill said Thursday in a phone interview.

But she cautioned that the location selection process doesn’t necessarily lead straight into a building project, and school system leaders will need to line up funding before design and construction can begin.

“It is a very slow-moving process to get a school built,” she said.

The school board on Nov. 27 is scheduled to take action on the proposed capital improvement plan for fiscal 2019 to 2024.

School board considers testing out new courses

Students at Montgomery Blair High School soon could get the chance to take a course called the “chemistry of art,” blending science learning and creativity. Thomas Edison High School of Technology is interested in offering a cybersecurity class. Walt Whitman High School students might one day earn credit learning about publishing research in the field of psychology.

The Montgomery County Board of Education on Tuesday are set to review requests to develop these and other proposed pilot courses in county schools. School system staff members report that the pilot courses are developed by local schools, central services staff or outside groups.

Courses that go through the pilot process successfully sometimes return to the school board for review and approval as active courses.

Students, parents invited to mental health day in Rockville

The Montgomery County School Psychologists’ Association is holding a mental health fair Monday in Rockville.

The event is part of School Psychology Awareness Week and will run from 5 to 7 p.m. at 850 Hungerford Drive. Students and families can attend to learn about yoga and mindfulness, early childhood development, pet therapy, coping skills and sleep hygiene, according to the MCPS website.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at

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