Montgomery County Public Schools is moving forward with plans for a new William H. Farquhar Middle School to be built on property adjacent to the current school.
The school, 16915 Batchellors Forest Road, Olney, was built in 1968 and is scheduled for modernization beginning in 2013. It is expected to reopen for the 2015-16 school year.
The new building is being designed on property directly north of the current site, which is recommended in the Olney Master Plan to be dedicated as rural open space for use as a local park. Once the new building is complete, the site of the existing school would be conveyed to Park and Planning for use as the parkland.
Parents lobbied for the “land swap” because they did not want their children bused to the Tilden Holding Center in Bethesda, and such a deal would allow students to remain in place while the new school is built. However, some neighbors have opposed the plan, questioning whether the county’s land-use process has been followed.
Bill Gries, Park and Planning land acquisition specialist, said the deed to the property on which the new school would be built recently was dedicated by Pulte Homes to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
He said he has not seen a formal request by Montgomery County Public Schools for an exchange agreement, which would result in the conveyance of the property, although there have been discussions regarding the terms and conditions.
Once the formal request is made and the terms and conditions are agreed upon, the Planning Board will make the final decision.
Parents see the progress as good news.
“They are moving ahead with the design of the school, and that is a good thing,” said Troy Kimmel, Brooke Grove Elementary School PTA board member. “But we are not having a victory party just yet.”
Montgomery County Public Schools will have a series of upcoming work sessions to develop a schematic design for the new school. Meetings will take place at 3:30 p.m. May 22, 7 p.m. May 31, 7 p.m. June 14 and 7 p.m. June 28 at the school.
Topics — including the use of space inside the building, pedestrian and vehicular flow, and how the school will fit in the surrounding community — will be included in the discussions. Each session will build upon concepts discussed in previous meetings.
“This is where the pieces of the design puzzle come together,” said Ray Marhamati, school system project manager.
School and PTA representatives, neighbors, community members, community members and representatives of governmental agencies are encouraged to attend and participate. School system construction staff, architects and consultants will be available to answer questions.
Periodic updates of the schematic design progress will be posted on the county school system’s website for the school’s project information.