July 12, 2011
County Council President Valerie Ervin
100 Maryland Ave
Dear President Ervin:
I am writing you today to thank you for holding the joint meeting between the Education and Planning, Housing & Economic Development committees on July 25, 2011. The situation with MCPS process for site selection and for conducting feasibility studies is completely broken. The actions taken by the Board of Education are unacceptable in terms of maintaining public trust and valuing park lands.
I am committed to creating a positive environment for making the new middle school in the BCC cluster, the best new middle school in Montgomery County. However, if we allow the BOE and MCPS to continue operating in their status quo process, we will never have that opportunity. We need to not make this their last mistake, but make this their first example of a new innovated and thoughtful process. This can be a win-win, if we allow ourselves to think outside the box, or in this case each process has its own stove-piped box.
The site known as Rock Creek Hills Park, at 13.38 acres, is not the site known formerly as the Kensington Junior High school site at 21.6 acres. In the Deed to transfer property to MNCPPC, dated May 10, 1990, Montgomery County deeded 13.38 acres to MNCPPC. The remaining parcel of land at 8.22 acres was leased to the Housing Opportunity Commission for 92 years and now is the home to 200 senior residents who live at the Kensington Park Retirement community. Thus, when MCPS and the BOE state in the site selection report and during the feasibility study that RCHP is the site of the former KJH that is not accurate, it is deficient 8.22 acres. The retirement community is primarily located where the old junior high school buildings were located. Thus, when we discuss putting a middle school at Rock Creek Hills Park we need to understand we are now talking about 13.38 acres, without an adjacent park, instead of 21.6 acres when KJH was a junior high school. If a new middle school were to be built at this location, it would effectively establish the smallest site for a middle school in Montgomery County without an adjacent park. The proposed school would be inadequate from the first day it opens in comparison to Westland’s educational and athletic curricula.
The park at Rock Creek Hills is not vacant land, as coined by the BOE. It is the home of two regulation size adult soccer fields, where annually over 400 permits issued. It is heavily used every weekend by many citizens in the county and is welcoming to the residents, with a track, tennis courts, basket ball courts, roller hockey rink and a tree lined playground.
On the environmental front, Rock Creek Hills has numerous specimen trees, which would have to be destroyed if a school were placed on the hills of the park. One of our residents has conducted an “Analysis of the Status of hardwood trees located in Rock Creek Hills Park (RCHP) destined for removal based Montgomery County Board of Education (MCBOE) feasibility study options for CCC Middle School #2.” In summary, there are 22 trees destined for destruction on the sloped portion of RCHP that will qualify for Significant or Specimen Tree Status in accordance with the Maryland Forest Conservation Act. Nearly all of the trees qualify as Specimen Trees (> 30” in diameter; ranging from 33.9” – 42.4” in diameter). Their removal will greatly impact the current wildlife that occupies the site. Specimen Trees would be removed due to placement of proposed middle school on the sloped portions of the site.
With the goal in mind of creating an excellent middle school in the BCC cluster, I wrote to Mr. Barclay on July 9, requesting that he instruct Mr. Song to have the Feasibility Study committee expand its site options for determining feasibility to include other public properties (e.g., MCPS inventory of closed or leased schools and any possible WSSC properties) as well as engage in dialogue with the President of the Chevy Chase Lake Development project, Mr. David Smith, to discuss space for a school.
If MCPS continues to focus only on precious park land as possible new schools, our county offices will continued to be stove piped and not collaborative. This will be a lost opportunity to improve our business processes and to be more accountable with precious recourses, including taxpayer dollars.
I applaud your efforts with that endeavor.
Shannon Reid Hamm
East Bexhill Drive
Kensington, MD 20895
Cc: Nancy Floreen