Monday, June 27, 2011

"It’s time to do it right, not fast." [Testimony at tonight's Board of Ed meeting]

Good evening. My name is Ruth Silverstein. My youngest of three children just completed Westland Middle School and I live approximately three blocks from Rock Creek Hills Park. I have lived in the neighborhood for over 20 years and always wished that Kensington Junior High School had been renovated for the benefit of the current generation, using all of the original land, including the third of the property on which Kensington Park Retirement Community now sits. Sending three children to Westland has cost my family well over 1000 hours in commuting time alone. How great would it have been for them to have walked to middle school? No one disputes that vision.

What we do dispute is the process. We dispute the secrecy in which the site was selected. We dispute the definition of “feasibility study,” which by any dictionary calls for an assessment of options before making a selection. We are disappointed in the lack of creative thinking about how a middle school could be configured in our cluster. We are baffled by the closed process by which the architect was selected, and at this point, we are most distressed that the size of the property, predictably, cannot support the requirements that MCPS states are necessary for a middle school.

Why build a school that starts out sub-standard? We’ve seen the plans at the Feasibility Advisory Committee meetings and we’ve seen that parking lots may share space with basketball courts. We’ve heard that sports teams may have to practice off-site. Building the school is already displacing B-CC’s off-site practice fields, so where are the middle school kids going to go? We understand that there are other smaller than optimal middle schools in the county but each and every one of them, without exception, is adjacent to a local park, which provides the space necessary for outside sports teams and physical education programs.

The B-CC cluster prides itself on its academic achievements, and the IB program is one of the pinnacles of our success. At the last Feasibility Advisory Committee meeting, we could not be assured that the MYP curriculum would be offered at the new middle school Since it is currently offered to all 6th to 8th graders in our cluster, including those at NCC and Chevy Chase Elementary schools, why would there even be a question about offering it at the new middle school? It just seems to be another piece in a very haphazard process that will cost millions of dollars and fall short of the guidelines you’ve set?

Please, I urge you, take a step back, and conduct a true feasibility study. We know that there are other options to consider, even though they may delay your schedule. It’s time to do it right, not fast.

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