Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Curious Omission.

Last week, during the first meeting of the new site selection advisory committee for B-CC middle school #2, Montgomery County Public Schools staff presented, with no advance public notice, a new minimum requirement of 10.1 acres for a middle school site. Setting a minimum site size is not unreasonable, especially in light of the fact that the official list of candidate sites for last year's deeply flawed site selection process was widely criticized for including sites as small as 4 acres, which is clearly inadequate. However, the new official minimum requirement of 10.1 acres is still remarkably small when compared to all existing county middle schools (when "co-located" parks are factored in; see below) – and given that the official list of public candidate sites for B-CC middle school #2 now includes six sites of 17 acres or more (including two sites larger than 30 acres). Furthermore, the presentation of this new minimum was marked by a curious omission.

Here is the MCPS powerpoint slide that presents the new minimum:

The slide states that the new minimum is based, in part, on the building footprint of a single middle school, identified as "Lakelands MS":

In fact, the school in question is the Lakelands Park Middle School:
(Go Falcons! Banner from official school website.)

Got that? The name of the school is "Lakelands Park":
(Good luck on exams! School sign.)

The Lakelands Park Middle School is so named because it is adjacent to the 11.6 acre Lakelands Park, and the school uses the park's fields for physical education classes and for team sports. The combined size of the school and park is 19.7 acres:
(click image for larger version)

This is an example of school/park "co-location". Indeed, every MCPS middle school on a site that is smaller than 13 acres is adjacent to a park. A middle school built on a 10.1 acre site, without an adjacent (or "co-located") park providing field space, would be uniquely inadequate, county-wide. Would anyone in the Bethesda – Chevy Chase cluster want that?

So, why did MCPS staff omit the word "Park" from their slide? It certainly wasn't for lack of room:
(Plenty of room  –  shown in yellow  –   for a "Park"!)

In July, Mr. Damian Garde reported in the Kensington Patch on an interview with Ms. Mary Bradford, Montgomery County Director of Parks:
Bradford said the Parks Department has long been amenable to sharing the use of sites with MCPS, but that the proposed middle school [in Rock Creek Hills Park] would leave no room for that. "This is not a matter of finding a space where it works together with the park," she said. "It would obliterate the park, and that's different from sharing the site. We want to work to find a better way."
The Parks Department wants to work to find a better way, but MCPS risked misleading the site selection advisory committee by failing to acknowledge that their "template" school is co-located with a park. In their presentation to the committee, MCPS staff even chose to omit the word "Park" from the name of the school. What a curious omission.

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