2015 | Schools

Somerset Elementary School Hoping for Approval to Install Artificial Turf Field

Foundation at school plans to raise $550,000 to cover costs

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Via Montgomery County Public Schools

A private foundation that pays for improvements at a Chevy Chase Elementary School could get the go-ahead Tuesday on a half-million dollar artificial turf field project.

The Montgomery County Board of Education is set to vote Tuesday evening to allow the Somerset Elementary School Educational Foundation to begin raising the roughly $550,000 needed for the new field.

Private fundraising for improvements at public schools has rubbed some in Montgomery County the wrong way.

After a booster group for Winston Churchill High School in Potomac raised $80,000 for a new football field scoreboard in 2012, then-Council member Valerie Ervin questioned whether private donations were leading to an unfair advantage for students in wealthier communities.

Together with a local youth soccer league, the booster club at Thomas Wootton High School in Rockville funded a $1 million turf field for soccer, football and other field sports.

Last year, the school system hosted three community meetings to ask whether changes should be made to its private donation policy.

Staff from the public school system’s Department of Facilities Management found the Somerset request complies with school system policy. The Board of Education must approve all private donations of more than $50,000.

The Somerset Elementary Parent-Teacher Association and the foundation say the small field at the school now “has been a challenge to maintain” because it’s natural grass and because it’s in high demand by the school and the community.

The PTA and foundation estimated they can raise the $550,000 by the summer of 2017.

“The artificial turf on the playing field will provide safe playing conditions and benefit both the school and the community,” wrote Interim Superintendent Larry Bowers in his recommendation for approval.