New Rock Creek Forest Elementary School Opens

New Rock Creek Forest Elementary School Opens

New building doubles the capacity of the Chevy Chase School

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Principal Jennifer Lowndes stands in front of the new Rock Creek Forest Elementary School on Jan. 2., 2015.

Andrew Metcalf

Rock Creek Forest Elementary School students streamed Monday into a new, $22 million building that nearly doubles the size of the former Chevy Chase school.

The building replaces the original school at 8330 Grubb Road, which was built in 1950 for a capacity of 310 students. For years, school officials joined local parents to lobby for a new building as enrollment doubled the capacity of the aging school in recent years.

Inside the building Friday, Principal Jennifer Lowndes was navigating the new hallways, greeting teachers returning from winter break, and pointing out features of the school.

“We’re so happy to have the new school completed,” Lowndes said. “Teachers and parents have done such a great job in uniting the community behind this project.”

The new school can hold 745 students, well over the current enrollment of 626. It has three floors. The main floor—which houses kindergarten classrooms—features a tile “creek” floor meant to emulate the meandering flow of nearby Rock Creek. The exterior landscaping, which hasn’t been completed, includes large rocks as small benches. There are 30 classrooms throughout the building’s three levels and each level has a theme, Lowndes said. The lower level is the “rock” level, the main floor is the “creek” level and the upper floor is the “forest” level. Each classroom will be named after a tree, plant or animal from the forest, according to Lowndes, and each room has Promethean interactive whiteboards.

The building features a bright, high-ceilinged media center where students can attend story time and learn technology skills with instructors.

“We always say we’re the happy place in the school,” said media specialist Ingrid Brown, who pointed out the sunlight streaming in from large corner windows.

There’s also a large cafeteria with a stage for student performances or assemblies, more staff offices and flexible use space. The gym has six basketball hoops, and, last week, a still-shiny floor.

The building was constructed with mostly recycled materials and has a green roof, which is largely composed of planters filled with grassy shrub designed to soak up rainwater. The landscaping, which hasn’t been completed, includes large rocks to be used as small benches.

Last week, teachers were setting up their classrooms. Small chairs were still turned over on circular tables, but the decorations going up hinted at the incoming students.

“We’re excited about having the kids here,” second-grade teacher Eva Pacheco said. “It’s like moving into a new house.”

Construction began in the summer of 2013 and during that time Rock Creek students were housed at the Radnor Center, a Potomac building used as a temporary site for schools under construction.

There’s still some work to be done at the new building—the playgrounds and fields need to be installed behind it—but Lowndes said that work is expected to be completed by the end of January.

The exterior of the school. Credit: Andrew Metcalf

Promethean board inside the new media center, which also serves as a library.

The reading area inside the media center gets light from large corner windows.

The music room.

A classroom being set up by a teacher.

The forest level, where students in grades 2 through 5 will attend class, features lockers.

The gymnasium at Rock Creek Forest Elementary School.

The green roof is designed to limit stormwater runoff.

Construction workers were adding landscaping and playground features behind the building on Jan. 2. This area is fenced-off from students while construction continues.

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