Montgomery County Public Schools has narrowed a list of potential sites for a new elementary school in the Bethesda area to three.
The three remaining possible locations are all on the same sites as other building projects, as the school district is pushing for more innovative school buildings that take advantage of compact sites.
“The reality is we’re going to have smaller school sites in the future as there’s more development in the county,” said Seth Adams, director of the MCPS Department of Facilities Management. “… Selecting one of these sites allows us to be able to adapt.”
MCPS is studying where to open another elementary school in about six years to relieve crowding in the Walter Johnson and Bethesda-Chevy Chase high school clusters.
School officials proposed 10 sites in October, then 10 sites four months later, with some dropping off the earlier list and some being added. About two weeks ago, MCPS officials announced they had cut the list to six.
The remaining three sites under consideration are:
- WMAL on Greentree Road
- Two White Flint properties that have been called White Flint North and White Flint South.
School board member Pat O’Neill urged staff members to ensure that there is outdoor play space at the final site chosen for the new school.
“There is still a reasonable expectation among the parents in the community that there’s a field and a playground,” O’Neill said. “I totally get that we’re not building ranch-style schools anymore … We’re building to have a smaller footprint on our lots, but unless there’s a park adjacent, there needs to be outdoor space.”
Also at Thursday’s meeting, MCPS’ staff recommended that all students at Clarksburg Elementary School be reassigned to a new school, scheduled to open in the fall of 2022.
Clarksburg Elementary School would instead possibly operate as an early childhood education center, but could be expanded and reopen as a school later if area enrollment demanded it.
“For us, this is an opportunity to open up one new school and solve overutilization constraints, and leave us the ability to essentially double a school in the future,” Adams said.
Adams said there is about a six-minute drive between the two school sites, and, while no students currently can walk to Clarksburg Elementary School, many could walk to the new school.
MCPS’ staff also recommended nixing two addition projects at Cresthaven and Roscoe Nix elementary schools, meant to relieve crowding at JoAnn Leleck Elementary School.
Instead, staff members pitched the idea of building a new elementary school, keeping pre-kindergarten through second-grade students at Leleck and housing third- through fifth-grade students at the new facility.
“We are pursuing non-MCPS owned properties for this” project, Adams said.
MCPS also suggested delaying construction on a $28 million addition project at Sligo Creek Elementary School and Silver Spring International Middle School, both on the same property, by one year “to re-evaluate the current scope and consider alternative options.” Adams said the project’s projected cost has increased due to nearby construction of the Purple Line transit system.
In January, County Executive Marc Elrich released a $4.23 billion CIP that reduced the school district’s construction budget by $100 million over six years.
The school board will continue advocating for its request to be fully funded, but MCPS compiled a list of projects in the six-year CIP that could be delayed or cut if there’s not enough money to fund them.
Those projects are:
- A one-year delay in “planning funds” for the new Clarksburg Elementary School, an addition to DuFief Elementary School, an addition at William Tyler Page Elementary School, a new high school in Gaithersburg, an addition at Northwood High School, the reopening of Charles W. Woodward High School and a “major capital project” at Col. Zadok Magruder High School
- A two-year delay to build an addition at Bethesda Elementary School.
- Elimination of a construction project at the Maryvale Elementary School/Carl Sandburg Learning Center, an addition at Westbrook Elementary School and the construction of an early childhood education center at Watkins Mill Elementary School
- A reduction in HVAC upgrade expenses in Fiscal Years 2023 and 2024.