Montgomery County government and school system officials are still looking for vacant office buildings in downtown Silver Spring for a new school with specialized career and technical education programs.
Six months after publicly disclosing they were considering the idea, county officials say they are still looking for a location for the program, which could serve about 800 students.
“We’re still looking on nailing down a space,” said County Councilmember Hans Riemer, who pitched the idea and is spearheading the effort. “Our preferred scenario is to have both the Kid Museum and the school in the same building, and if we can’t have them in the same building, we want them near one another. It takes a while to work those things out.”
The Kid Museum is a hands-on learning center on Democracy Boulevard in Bethesda. Its website says it “incorporates STEM, art and culture with 21st century skills like creativity and critical thinking.”
The Kid Museum is looking for a new location, according to a county government budget document, and is looking for about 50,000 square feet of space, which would allow the organization to increase the amount of students it serves annually from 55,000 to 250,000.
County Executive Marc Elrich and MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith have joined the County Council in supporting the idea. County leaders are exploring either buying or leasing space.
The key, though, is that the new school would be in the heart of downtown Silver Spring, with ample access to public transportation and a business hub.
“That’s the whole idea with the Silver Spring strategy. … It’s that this is where employers are and so you can build a strong apprenticeship strategy based on the proximity to companies, jobs and employers,” Riemer said. “This is about employer interactions.”
MCPS considered commercial space as a temporary facility for Northwood High School students while the school undergoes a comprehensive renovation and expansion beginning in 2023. School board and staff members, however, determined that renting space would be too expensive for short-term use.
The school board has long discussed the possibility of “innovative” schools, require space in nontraditional settings, such as vacant offices. Traditional schools usually sit on several acres.
With increasingly less available space to build new schools, county leaders have said suggested a renewed focus on creative ways to use existing space for education.
The school system in 2016 conducted a study of school design options, including remodeling commercial buildings. The report said the school district would consider the idea when there is a “convergence of need and opportunity,” and possibilities would be considered case by case.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org