Saturday, May 7, 2011

"Dear Board of Education,"

An email from Maria Marzullo to the Montgomery County Board of Education, May 2nd, 2011.

Dear Board of Education,

I am writing to urge you to delay the feasibility study for the new middle school at Rock Creek Hills Park until several critical issues have been fully addressed. While fully understanding and agreeing for the need to address the current overcrowding and providing capacity for future growth, I am urging you to consider the following BEFORE any moving forward with a feasibility study:

o Lack of transparency and communication: our community was not notified that we would be now the first choice because their previous selection was not going forward. We found out merely a few hours before the Board meeting that our neighborhood park was going to be voted on. The community has not had the opportunity to assess this situation or even given an opportunity to present concerns (either in favor or against the selection).

This is completely against Board policy and Superintendent Jerry Weast's recommendation of full transparency and community involvement in the selection process.

o Elimination of Public Park: Our community park is heavily utilized by both residents of the community and by many others in the county. There are two regulation sized soccer fields located on the site that are always utilized by many soccer leagues (MSI as well as adult leagues) and Bethesda Chevy Chase High School. At a time when Montgomery county is searching for more soccer fields, it would seem ridiculous to eliminate such a well utilized and established field in the lower county, where fields are scarce...

In addition to soccer, the many people visit our park (both in and out of the neighborhood) to enjoy the tennis courts, children play area, street hockey and basketball. At a time when we should be encouraging our children to play outside more to combat the obesity crisis, we should not be taking away the convenience of a well established park.

o Site Location: This site was a location of a former middle school. However, many things have changed since then which would present several concerns in locating a middle school here now:
- A retirement community has been built on half of the original parcel of the middle school. The usable acreage is much smaller and most likely would not support a full-facility middle school. With the increase in population, and with even more expected given the Chevy Chase Lake development plans and continued downtown Bethesda development, (which would feed in this cluster), the school should be built in an area that could support more expansion, be full facility, rather than less.

- The retirement community was approved with the condition that a park would be part of the location. This was done and as stated above, the park is very heavily utilized. The residents of the retirement community also use the park for their exercise area.

- The site includes a stream that feeds into Rock Creek and is a watershed into the Chesapeake Bay. Building another extensive structure and parking area adjacent to a major watershed would most likely exacerbate environmental watershed issues for the Creek and Bay.

- Access, traffic and parking to the site are all issues. Today, access is an issue just with the soccer fields in use. Parking overflows into the local streets and becomes a hazard for emergency vehicles, as will as normal traffic. The access roads are small residential ones, with NO neighborhood sidewalks (except a few around the park) and the amount of traffic a middle school would generate would overwhelm the community streets.

Additionally, the site selection did not consider any future changes in our communities which would greatly affect traffic flow in our community and on Connecticut Avenue. These include the Chevy Chase Lake Development plans and the Kensington Sector Development plans, all of which include significant rezoning which would increase population to schools and streets. These are both adjacent to our neighborhood and a middle school located with access by only small residential roads would create gridlock.

We do not believe all other locations were fully considered before being eliminated and that there are other options that should be considered (i.e, utilizing existing facilities - expanding Westland or converting an elementary school to a middle school and enlarging other elementary schools that are already slated for redevelopment.)

While fully understanding the need to quickly move on a decision for a middle school, this decision would greatly impact our community for many, many years to come and should not be done with haste, without fully considering all alternatives and without community notice and participation.

Thank you for your consideration,
Maria Marzullo

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