Interim Superintendent Larry A. Bowers is recommending that Tilden Middle School and Rock Terrace School share a new facility to maximize opportunities for students with disabilities to receive instruction in a regular school setting when appropriate. However, Mr. Bowers is recommending that Tilden Middle and Rock Terrace, which serves special education students ages 12 through 21, maintain separate staffs, instructional spaces, and leadership in order to fulfill their unique missions.
“Collocating Tilden and Rock Terrace will allow both schools to be housed in a state-of-the-art facility and provide more opportunities for students from the two schools to learn together,” Mr. Bowers said. “Even though these schools will share space, they will maintain their separate identities and missions, and will have staff dedicated to ensuring student success.”
The interim superintendent’s recommendation will now be reviewed by the Montgomery County Board of Education. A work session will be held on Tuesday, April 14, and a public hearing will be held on Monday, April 27. The Board is expected to make a final decision on the recommendation on Tuesday May 12.
The current six-year Capital Improvements Program for Fiscal Years 2015-2020 includes a revitalization/expansion project at what is now the Tilden Lane holding school, located at 6300 Tilden Lane in Rockville. The revitalized school is slated to become the new location for Tilden Middle School. Rock Terrace School is housed in a 65-year-old, stand-alone building in Rockville, and is in need of significant improvement.
In October, then-superintendent Joshua P. Starr recommended that a roundtable discussion group, including parents and staff from both schools, study the possibility of collocating Tilden Middle and Rock Terrace in the same facility. The collocation aligns with the Board of Education’s goal of having disabled and nondisabled students interact to the maximum extent appropriate. Also, the state of Maryland has indicated that MCPS may not be eligible to receive state capital funds to revitalize/expand stand-alone special education centers because such facilities do not support the goal of special education students receiving instruction in a general education setting when appropriate.
MCPS has previously collocated special education centers with general education schools. The Longview School is located in the same facility as Spark M. Matsunaga Elementary School in Germantown and the Carl Sandburg Learning Center will share a facility with Maryvale Elementary School as part of a revitalization/expansion project due to open in 2019.
Tilden Middle School and nearby Walter Johnson High School already house programs comparable to the Rock Terrace School, that serve students with special needs.
The roundtable discussion group met six times from December through February and identified the priorities for Tilden Middle and Rock Terrace and reviewed the challenges and opportunities that collocating the schools would present. The group also saw preliminary concepts for a shared facility and visited Matsunaga/Longview.
The interim superintendent’s recommendation reflects input from members of the roundtable discussion who felt strongly that both schools should maintain their own identities and should have separate classrooms and staff for instruction, including electives such as music, art, and physical education. The roundtable also felt that collocation would provide opportunities for the schools to share some facilities, such as the kitchen, administrative space, and a media center. Members of the group also wanted the design of a collocated facility to take into account the impact of traffic in the area.
The shared facility would allow for collaboration among staff and, when appropriate, interaction among students. For instance, middle school students in Rock Terrace could participate in social activities and assemblies with students from Tilden. Older students in Rock Terrace would be able to work with students from Walter Johnson High School. Both Tilden and Water Johnson have active Best Buddies programs, which foster friendships and collaboration among students with and without developmental disabilities.
If the Board approves the interim superintendent’s recommendation, a feasibility study would be conducted in the spring to determine the scope and cost of building a facility that would house both schools. The feasibility study will include a traffic impact analysis, evaluation of utilities, and an environmental assessment to address concerns being raised by the community surrounding the Tilden Lane site. The collocated facility would open in August 2019 as long as funding is available.
Read the Interim Superintendent's Recommendation
Roundtable Discussion Group Website