When the Carl Sandburg Learning Center moved from Twinbrook to East Rockville to join Maryvale Elementary School, the future of the now vacant building was unknown. During the last few months, lots of vehicles were visiting the empty building along with surveyors and utility crews. None had any answers about what was planned, although the neighboring residents were curious.
Mike Stein, president of the Twinbrook Community Association, asked Rob DiSpirito, Rockville’s city manager, about it and it turns out that Montgomery County Public Schools is planning a major expansion that will add loading for seven school busses, expand the parking lot by 50 percent to add twenty-nine more spaces, and add twenty-one (21!) portable classrooms (aka trailers). MCPS recently met with the Planning and Development Services department at the City of Rockville to discuss their plans, but have not yet filed an application.
A closer look at MCPS’s Capital Improvements Program for FY2022 reveals that Jack Smith, superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools, recommended to the Board of Education in October 2020 (six months ago!) to use the “former Carl Sandburg Learning Center as another elementary school holding facility” to accelerate the construction of Stonegate Elementary School for completion in September 2023 (Capital Improvements Program/Master Plan, pages 5, 1-2, 3-6). That means the school children, faculty, and staff at Stonegate will commute to Carl Sandburg for the next two years.
MCPS is moving fast and not thinking about the impact on the surrounding neighborhood. Carl Sandburg Learning Center is sited just south of Twinbrook Parkway, which serves as an unofficial cross-county connector for Rockville. Sharing Twinbrook Parkway within a mile are Meadow Hall Elementary School (402 students) and Rockville High School (1448 students)—all will be starting and ending their rush hours at about the same time. By turning Carl Sandburg into a holding school, it will add to the already significant traffic snarls we face every weekday on this two-lane road (but maybe when the pandemic lifts, we’ll continue to work from home?).
If you are concerned about the size or impact of this holding school on the neighborhood, contact the Rockville Planning Commission at Planning.Commission@rockvillemd.gov and copy Jim Wasilak, chief of planning, at email@example.com. Twinbrook residents Anne Goodman and John Tyner are planning commissioners, so you can contact them as well. The State of Maryland grants school districts significant latitude in the use of their land (basically, their decisions trump city and county government) so if you’re really concerned, you need to contact your elected officials, such as County Executive Marc Elrich, County Councilmember Sid Katz (who represents Rockville), and Bridget Newton (mayor of Rockville), who can apply political pressure.
If you are concerned about the school district’s lack of communication with the neighborhood about this major expansion project, contact Jack Smith (MCPS superintendent of schools, retiring in June); Brenda Wolf (chair of the board of education, who also represents District 5 where Carl Sandburg is located) at Brenda_Wolff@mcpsmd.org; or the entire Board of Education at firstname.lastname@example.org. While residents, businesses, and developers have to notify the neighborhood of significant changes to their land, school districts are largely exempt—and it’s a bad civic practice.
If you are concerned about the potential damage to the majestic old tree behind the school (anyone know the species?), well, maybe the City Forester can help at email@example.com, but it is on school property and they tend to treat landscaping as a low priority.
On all messages, please copy Mike Stein at Twinbrook.President@Gmail.com to keep the Twinbrook Community Association in the loop. They are local association of residents advocating for the neighborhood.
Carl Sandburg Learning Center (451 Meadow Hall Road, Rockville) had 93 students in grades PreK-6 and was built in 1962 with 52,227 square feet on 18 acres OR 31,252 square feet on 8 acres (MCPS data conflicts).
Stonegate Elementary School (14811 Notley Road, Silver Spring) has 492 students in grades K-5 (currently over capacity by 92 students with seven portable classrooms) was built in 1971 with 52,468 square feet on 10 acres.
“Holding facilities are utilized for capital projects, such as major capital projects and large-scale addition projects, to
house students and staff during construction. By relocating students and staff to a holding facility, MCPS is able to reduce the length of time required for construction and provide a safe and secure environment for the students and staff.” Currently, there are six holding facilities for elementary schools: Emory Grove, Fairland, Grosvenor, North Lake, Radnor, and the former Carl Sandburg Learning Center.
The League of Women Voters of Montgomery County, Montgomery County Council of PTAs, Montgomery County Branch of NAACP, and the Montgomery County Interbranch Council of AAUW (whew!) are hosting a Candidates’ Forum for the Montgomery County Board of Education on Wednesday, September 28 from 7:00-8:45 pm at Kennedy High School, 1901 Randolph Road in Silver Spring. For more information, visit lwvmocomd.org.
Tracie Potts of NBC4 will moderate the discussion among At-Large candidates Jeanette Dixon and Phil Kauffman, District 2 candidates Brandon Rippeon and Rebecca Smondrowski, and District 4 candidates Shebra Evans and Anjali Reed Phukan. If elected, these persons will not only be responsible for the education of children in the county but also more than $1 billion in taxpayer funds. Choose wisely!
In Montgomery County, a Board of Education district means a geographic area in which an elected member of the Board must live. In Montgomery County there are five resident-district members and two at-large members of the Board; however, all Board members are elected by the county as a whole.
The effort to stop the creation of a school bus depot at the Carver Center in Rockville continues to grow with community meetings, presentations at City Council meetings, collecting more than 1,700 signatures on petitions, and hiring an attorney. Montgomery County Public Schools wants to consolidate several bus depots around the county that provide parking, equipment storage, and maintenance for school busses to one central location in Rockville. It doesn’t make sense considering the size of the county—should 100+ busses come and go from Rockville to transport students in Poolesville and Silver Spring?
If you’d like to learn more:
- Visit the Carver Coalition web site at CarverCoalition.org
- Attend the Community Meeting on the plans for the depot hosted by Montgomery County Public Schools on Wednesday, May 11 at 7:30 pm at College Gardens Elementary School
- Attend the Carver Coalition meeting on Tuesday, May 17 at 7:00 pm at the Rockville Unitarian Universalist Church at 100 Welsh Park Drive.
- Read the latest flyer from the Carver Coalition.
There’s a bigger issue that continues to gnaw at me, however. MCPS is one of the largest school districts in the country with a billion-dollar budget. It’s considered one of the best in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, but does that mean it’s also well governed? The school board seems to be continually tone-deaf when it comes to local issues, such as the bus depot, and the County Council seems to be unable to have any influence, despite being the major funder. Is it time to split the school district into manageable parts and have more local control?
Montgomery County is proposing to add a new Children’s Resource Center (CRC) for the school district on the former Broome Middle School campus on Twinbrook Parkway in Rockville. There have been a series of public meetings about the project and the County held its fourth and last meeting on January 25, 2014. They presented four conceptual designs for the front elevations for review and comment. About a dozen residents attended along with City Councilmember Beryl Feinberg and the chief of staff of County Councilmember Andrews.
Basically, the building consists of two blocks of different sizes joined by a tower. The designs show different “skins” of a varying mix of materials and colors. It’s not supposed to complement the existing Broome School because that’s slated for demolition and the replacement school hasn’t been designed, so I’m assuming the design of the CRC will set the pace for the new middle school. The Gazette reported that the county believed that, “the people at the meeting seemed to prefer Scheme 2” but having attended the meeting, that’s a gross overstatement. My sense is that we were still gathering information and had lots of questions. There didn’t seem to be a preference for what we liked but rather what we didn’t like. No one was enthusiastic about Continue reading →
Rockville Town Center, LLC, the owner of the property at 255 North Washington Street (at Beall Avenue) is holding a community Area Meeting at 6:30 pm on Thursday, December 5, 2013 in the Black-eyed Susan Room in City Hall to discuss their development plans and allow the community to ask questions and provide suggestions. They propose to demolish the existing five-story bank/office building and replace it with a six-story residential/retail building that includes 280 multi-family dwelling units, 6200 square feet of ground floor commercial space, and a parking garage, as follows: Continue reading →