Public Hearing Set on Options for Seven Locks ES

April 20, 2006
Board Schedules Public Hearing on Options to Replace Seven Locks Elementary School at Kendale or Close the School

The Montgomery County Board of Education voted today to seek public comment on two potential options regarding the future of Seven Locks Elementary School—build a smaller replacement school at Kendale Road than originally approved by the Board and County Council or move to close the school and reassign its students within the Churchill cluster.

The action followed the release of a joint work group report yesterday by County Council and school system staff that identified the Kendale project as significantly less expensive (saving as much as $4.3 million) than the other six possible options that would retain a facility at either Kendale or the current school site and address enrollment and facility issues. However, the work group report also identified the potential school closure as the least expensive of any option, saving nearly $5.8 million, plus annual savings of $750,000 in operating costs.

The public hearing is scheduled for Monday, May 1, 2006, from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. in the auditorium of the Carver Educational Services Center. Speakers should register in advance by calling 301-279-3617 beginning April 21. Individuals and organizations will be allotted two minutes of testimony time, on a first come, first served basis (except for three-minute time slots reserved for the PTAs of each elementary school in the Churchill cluster at the beginning of the hearing). The Board then will make a recommendation to the Council.

The Kendale option (known as Option 1 in the work group report) would provide a replacement school with a core capacity of 640 students by December 2007 and simultaneous relief for overcrowding at Potomac Elementary. The option to close Seven Locks Elementary (Option 5b) would reassign students to other cluster elementary schools. (Separate procedures and actions by the Board would be necessary to close the school if this option moves forward.)

The Kendale option is $4.3 million less than the option to build an addition to Potomac Elementary School in 2008 and modernize Seven Locks Elementary School in 2011, and $963,000 less than an option to delay any improvements to either school until 2011.

“The least costly, most timely construction option for the Seven Locks Elementary School project is the original option already approved by the County Council and the Board of Education to build a replacement facility on Kendale Road,” said Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools, in recommending that option to the Board.

The joint staff work group, which was led by a Council staff member included four staff representatives of the County Council and three staff members from the Montgomery County Public Schools, was formed in March 2006 to evaluate options available to address the elementary school capacity and facility issues in the Churchill cluster.

The work group’s report “confirms my original recommendation that the Kendale replacement school is the best option. It saves time and money,” said Dr. Weast. He also noted that the Kendale option “provides the relief needed for overcrowding at Potomac Elementary School in the shortest timeframe, avoids moving staff/students to a holding facility, and places the new facility on the most appropriate site. The financial savings are not insignificant.”

However, Dr. Weast also noted that the Council has expressed little support for the Kendale project, based on little community support for building a new school on that site.

The full report on the superintendent’s recommendation and the joint staff work group report are available online as a PDF file at the link below.

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