Last year, a "feasibility study"* regarding the proposal to replace Rock Creek Hills Park with a middle school was completed. It is prudent to ask: What does the 2011 feasibility study say about Rock Creek Hills Park as a potential middle school site?
The feasibility study illuminates site deficiencies that are consequences of the decision made decades ago that reduced the site, when one-third of the former Kensington Junior High School site was deeded to the Housing Opportunities Commission, which built what is now the Kensington Park Retirement Community on much of the site of the old school (please click on the first "thumbnail" above). Rock Creek Hills Park fails to meet the overwhelming majority of the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) middle school site evaluation criteria.
The feasibility study shows that Rock Creek Hills Park is too small.
• In June, when MCPS and its outside architect, Samaha Associates, presented the first design proposals, two of the three options routed school buses over basketball courts (please click on second thumbnail), and offered a glimpse into the difficulty associated with building on the severe topology of this undersized site.
• In October, all final feasibility study options used "overlaid" playing fields that would limit athletics, and located "portable classrooms" (trailers) on space that would otherwise be used for sports (please click on third thumbnail).
• In December, the MCPS director of construction wrote that "none of the three [final feasibility study] options provide the 125 on-site parking [spaces] called for in the educational specifications."
• A middle school on the site of the park would be, of all the middle schools in our county, the one on the smallest site without an adjacent park to provide additional acreage and playing fields for student use. The site would not provide parity with other middle schools in the county.
The feasibility study shows that Rock Creek Hills Park has inadequate access.
One official site criterion is "access," which has three parts: Frontage on a primary (70 foot right-of-way) road; three access points (for safety, in order to separate buses, cars, and trucks); and community sidewalks. The park fails to meet all of these elements, and in particular, none of the final feasibility study options have three access points.
The feasibility study shows that the proposed construction would obliterate Rock Creek Hills Park.
• In July, the Montgomery County Parks Director told Kensington Patch that construction would "obliterate" the park.
• In August, Montgomery County Public Schools appeared to agree that "there's not going to be any trees left."
Building a three-to-four story structure on the steep slope of the small site would be expensive.
An independent construction budget estimate (ICBE) commissioned by the Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association finds that the feasibility study underestimated costs by approximately $18 million. The ICBE puts 2017 total costs at $64.5 million, almost 40 percent above the MCPS estimate. This does not include the estimated $6 million that would have to be paid to the Parks Department to acquire the site.
*To see the MCPS director of long range planning explain that the purpose of an MCPS "feasibility study" is not to determine whether something is feasible, click here.