Wootton High School in Rockville will not see a cellphone tower planted on its property following stiff community opposition to a proposal from AT&T.
Michael Doran, Wootton’s principal, announced the decision Wednesday on the school’s website, the day after a community meeting on the issue at which dozens of parents and others protested the tower.
“After careful consideration of AT&T’s request to place a cell tower on Wootton’s property and your clear and strong opposition to the proposal, it has been decided that we will not move forward with the proposal,” Doran said on the website.
Robin Lenkin was one of the parents at the meeting Tuesday night who opposed the tower.
“On a basic level, I am outraged about this idea,” Lenkin said. “Public schools should not be used for commercial use. Schools are for education.”
Lenkin also said she worried about the property values of nearby homes.
“Some people have sacrificed a lot to live in this area and attend a school as prestigious as Wootton,” she said.
At the meeting, which about 50 people attended, Doran and his staff tried to make it clear that there were no plans to move forward with the tower before hearing the parents’ and community’s concerns.
Doran said the tower would earn $36,000 in annual revenues, with $12,000 going to Wootton High, $12,000 going to its feeder schools and $12,000 going to the tower developer.
Doran said the revenues would have helped fund summer program scholarships for students who could not afford to pay for extracurricular programs.
“I have talked with the other 11 schools [in Montgomery County with cell towers] and they have told me about their revenue streams,” Doran said. “The schools are comfortable with the streams, and the money we would have gotten would have gone to our kids.”
AT&T offered to put up a tower at the high school’s athletic field because there is a dead zone on its coverage map.
Doran said he was open to the proposal because the it would help the school financially.
“Parents can say they’ll donate, and sometimes they do,” Doran said. “But it’s hard to keep asking, and they don’t always give. This tower is a way to get money without fundraising.”
Cece Kobylski, a junior at Wootton, said the money would be nice, but because of health concerns she did not want the tower.
“More revenue would be nice, but we just put up a new turf field,” Kobylski said. “I’m not sure we really need more money. I don’t like it because of the health risks.”
Dave Sawyer, a Wootton parent, agreed.
“There is no reason for a tower to be put up,” he said. “If they need more money, they should just ask.”
Lenkin, whose son attends Fallsmead Elementary School in Rockville and is a future Wootton student, said she is worried that a similar proposal might come up again at Wootton or another school.
“I’m very relieved [about the decision] but just concerned it could happen again,” she said.
In 2004, Cingular Wireless approached Wootton about putting up a cell tower, but parents and others in the community pushed the school board not to erect one. Many parents on Tuesday said they were concerned that the idea was brought up again and what it could mean for the future.
“So many people use these facilities,” Lenkin said. “When they got rid of the idea in 2004 we thought it was over. What’s the difference, why did it happen again — what’s next?”
Staff Writer Lindsay A. Powers contributed to this report.