BOE Approves Rock Creek Hills Park As New School Site
Approval follows months of debate over use of the Kensington park for a school site.
Following months of controversy, the Board of Education Tuesday approved Rock Creek Hills Local Park in Kensington as the site for a new middle school in the cramped Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster.
Both a site selection committee and Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr recommended locating the new school at the Kensington park. The site of a former junior high school, the school system has the right to reclaim the property from the county parks department, which operates the site.
The site selection committee, convened by the school system and comprised of MCPS, park and planning staff as well as a group of community stakeholders, evaluated 13 private and 25 public sites, some of them public parks. The committee was reconvened in January after an initial site selection process last year that drew fire from neighbors and officials who questioned MCPS's transparency and civic engagement.
Rock Creek Hills Local Park emerged for a second time as the committee’s top school site in March, but the recommendation ran into stiff opposition from some community members, who argued the park provides important recreational opportunities for the community and wouldn’t serve as an adequate school site.
The site recommendation was also met with skepticism by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission. This month, planning staff came out in opposition of building a school at that site, in part based on an opinion by Planning Board Chairwoman Francoise Carrier that “parks should not be made available for non-park purposes except in extraordinary circumstances.”
And at an April 9 advisory review hearing, the Planning Board urged the Board of Education to consider siting the school at the former Lynnbrook Elementary School and an adjacent local park in Bethesda, which Carrier said would be "less damaging" to the park system.
Planning staff also questioned MCPS' site selection process, saying it was too rushed for all sites to be given appropriate consideration.
Is Rock Creek Hills Local Park the best location for a new Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster middle school? What do you think about the school system's site selection process? Tell us in the comments.