School Board to consider closing Seven Locks

Kendale site is still on table as board sets a series of hearings on the issue

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Closing Seven Locks Elementary School is the only one of the eight options that is less expensive than building a new Seven Locks Elementary on Kendale Road, according to a report released Thursday by a task force of County Council staff and county school planners.

The school board is not yet ruling out either option for the Potomac school, despite opposition from the County Council to the Kendale Road site.

It would cost $17.4 million to build a school on Kendale Road to serve up to 640 students and $18.1 million to build a school there that would serve up to 740 students, according to cost estimates presented in the report.

Superintendent Jerry D. Weast on Thursday recommended that the school system build a school for 640 students at Kendale Road. The previous plan approved by the county school board and the state agency on school construction called for a school for 740 students on the site.

‘‘The report confirms my original recommendation that a Kendale replacement school is the best option,” Weast said during a school board meeting in Rockville.

The task force also found that closing Seven Locks and creating four elementary schools in the Churchill cluster that could serve up to 740 students each would cost $12.4 million, making it ‘‘significantly cheaper than all other options,” Weast said.

Three hearings set
What: School Board hearing
When. 7 p.m. May 1
Where: Carver
Educational Services Center, 850 Hungerford Drive, Rockville Call 301-279-3617.
What: County Council hearing on $3.3 million supplemental appropriation for the Kendale Road plan
When: 7:30 p.m. May 2
Where: County Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville. Call 240-777-7900.
What: County Council’s Education Committee on the Kendale Road plan and option to rebuild Seven Locks
When: 10 a.m. May 4
Where: County Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville. Call 240-777-7900.
Under that option, Bells Mill, Beverly Farms and Potomac elementaries would absorb Seven Locks students. Wayside Elementary is the fourth school that would remain open in the cluster.

The school board voted 5-2 to hold a public hearing on that option, as well as Weast’s recommended option of building on Kendale Road, on May 1. Board members Valerie Ervin (Dist. 4) and Nancy Navarro (Dist. 5), both of Silver Spring, and student member Sebastian Johnson voted in opposition, although the student member’s vote does not count on budget matters. Navarro said she supported holding the hearing, but thought it should consider all eight options.

Ervin said holding a hearing is "a ridiculous setup" if the board has already decided to build on Kendale Road. "So if that’s what we want, let’s just say this is the option we want and move forward," Ervin said. In a statement following Thursday’s vote, Council President George L. Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park reiterated a position the council has held since hearing unanimous opposition to the Kendale Road project from 60 speakers at two public hearings in March.

‘‘Given the total lack of community support for Kendale and the full range of problems with the Kendale site, the Council will not support a Kendale solution,” Leventhal said. ‘‘I believe there also are not sufficient votes on the Council to approve the closure of Seven Locks Elementary School and the dispersal of all its students to other schools.”

The board will vote on its recommendation to the council on May 9.

The council will vote on a plan for the project as part of its final approval of the county’s fiscal 2007-2012 construction budget at the end of May.

Weast, perhaps sensing that the board could be headed for a showdown with the council, observed that the two options being considered would be unpopular.

"Again, I would want to make the record clear that the two options we’ve put forward, that the County Council has expressed their intent, at least in the last meeting I was with them, that neither of those are favorable from their eyes and so did the community," he said.

Option 740 students 640 students
At Kendale Road site $18.2 million $17.4 million*
Replace at current site
By December 2008 $21 million $19.9 million
By August 2009 $20.2 million $19.3 million
By December 2001 $19.3 million $18.3 million
Addition at Potomac Elementary, future
modernization of existing Seven Locks
$21.7 million n/a
Addition, fure modernization of existing school $21.9 million $21 million
Balance enrollment across Churchill cluster
At five schools n/a $18.6 million
At four schools;
closing Seven Locks
$12.4 million n/a
*Does not include $750,000 already spent on design
Source: County Council/School planners task force