Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Please, make the prudent choice, spare a small park ..., and build a better school on a better site. " [Testimony at today's Board of Ed meeting]

Testimony at the August 24, 2011 meeting of the Montgomery County Board of Education:

Good morning, Dr. Starr, Mr. Barclay, and members of the Board.

My name is James Pekar, and today I am here to ask you to build a school that will meet the projected need for classroom space for 1200 middle school students. The school that MCPS staff propose to replace Rock Creek Hills Park is too small, and challenges associated with the site will not represent prudent use of our tax dollars.

Although the option of "not feasible" for the site was never an option for the MCPS "feasibility study", it should have been. We need space for 1200 students, and the student body should reflect the socio- and economic diversity of our cluster. Aside from a lack of infrastructure required physically to support the school, there is also a lack of public transportation; so I have to ask, "how will the parents of students from families without cars, visit the school and become involved in their children's education?"

I recently learned that it is possible to have a "placeholder" for a new BCC middle school in the upcoming CIP [Capital Improvement Program] and I would encourage you to work with the County Council to exercise this option.

The process of developing the plan for the middle school has been flawed from its inception, and appears inconsistent with your policies and regulations, and with state law. As [Planning Board] Chairman Carrier has informed you, there may be state and federal impediments to conversion of the site to non-park use. And, the appeal pending before the State Board of Education raises questions about the availability of the site. These outstanding questions will raise concerns about a proposed budget for a school on the site of Rock Creek Hills Park.

Parks Director Bradford observed that a middle school would "obliterate" Rock Creek Hills Park, and stated: "We want to work to find a better way." To be sure, the better way would yield a better school. Please, make the prudent choice, spare a small park that is very important to many Montgomery County citizens, and build a better school on a better site. Please, work with the County Council on a CIP placeholder, and work with the Parks & Planning Commission [M-NCPPC] to find a better way.

Thank you.

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