Carderock Springs Community Returns to Modernized School
Students, staff are happy to be back in the neighborhood in new, energy-efficient building.
The Carderock Springs Elementary community is settling back into the neighborhood in style in a bright, airy and environmentally sensitive new school building.
The new Carderock Springs Elementary School opened its doors at the beginning of the school year after a $22 million renovation.
Students and staff are enjoying the new building on Persimmon Tree Lane. For the past two years, the school community was housed at the Radnor Center along Radnor Road in Bethesda while the new, energy-efficient building was under construction.
"The biggest challenge for many families was the bus ride to Radnor. It was much longer," said Sara Bhatia, immediate past president of the Carderock Springs PTA. "Kids were on the bus for 45 minutes to an hour. It made the day feel very long."
Now, many Carderock Springs students have a much shorter commute, and some opt not to take the bus or the car.
"Just being back in our neighborhood is a different feel," said Principal Rock Palmisano. "There are more parents here. Kids are walking to school or riding their bikes."
The new Carderock Springs is LEED Silver certified for sustainability and has a new heating and air conditioning system powered by geothermal energy. One striking aspect of the renovation was incorporating natural stones from the nearby Carderock quarry into outdoor structures, like the sign and amphitheater. Light detectors in the classrooms sense when someone enters and turn off after five minutes when there's no movement in the room.
Montgomery County Public Schools officials were respectful to the Carderock Springs community and made the transition to the holding school "quick and successful," Bhatia said. "They really fixed up [the Radnor Center.] There were things that were better than in the old school — bigger windows that brought in more light, bigger classrooms, and we were all on one floor. Radnor was larger than our old school, so no classes were held in portables. There were actually advantages to being there," she explained. "But it's wonderful to be back in the neighborhood."
The return to the neighborhood has been good for the entire community, besides shorter commutes for students, Bhatia said. Now neighbors are using the playground and blacktops for biking, skateboarding and basketball.
"We suspect that the new school will encourage enrollment," Bhatia said. "Being in a state-of-the art facility makes Carderock attractive to neighbors buying houses. Families considering private school may now try out their local public school."
Unlike after some local school modernizations, Carderock Springs is not filled to capacity. The school went from bursting at the seams with a capacity of 250 to comfortably accommodating its about 340 students in the new building built for about 400.
Some improvements made to the school, first constructed in 1966, include a state-of-the-art media center and technology classrooms equipped with Promethean interactive whiteboards and Elmo projectors, specialized projectors that can display a variety of objects. The school didn't have a gym before the renovation, and Bhatia said the kids are excited about having a place to practice sports during and after school.
Another welcome addition — an outdoor amphitheater and expanded habitat garden — will both allow for outdoor instruction.
The new school also features an expanded autism program to accommodate five to six students in three classes. One way the school plans to integrate students in the autism program, Bhatia said, is assigning third-, fourth- and fifth-graders as "buddies."
"My personal perspective is the community is thrilled to have the new building and the construction completed," wrote Wendy Kuhn, PTA president, parent of two children at Carderock Springs and an alumna of the school, in an e-mail to Patch.
"There has been nothing but positive feedback from the parents. The students couldn't be happier! My third grader thinks it is totally cool to have a locker and loves the art and music rooms. My kindergartner thinks he is the biggest kid in the school. I am moved by the autism unit and the 15 new students that we have in the program."
Bhatia noted that although there are many improvements in the new building, it's a community, rather than a building, that defines a school. She pointed to Carderock Springs' 2004 Blue Ribbon rating as evidence. A top mark of honor awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, the Blue Ribbon rating was achieved before the physical upgrades.
"It was truly a great school before we had a new building," she said.
An earlier version of this story misidentified the current and past PTA presidents for Carderock Springs Elementary School. It also included the wrong grade levels for students being paired with children in Carderock Springs' autism program. We regret the error.