Education Committee supports Kendale site for Seven Locks

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The County Council’s Education Committee on Wednesday voted 2 to 1 to recommend building a new Seven Locks Elementary School on Kendale Road in Potomac.

The committee also voted 2 to 1 to recommend that the council approve a $3.3 million appropriation to cover cost increases on the Kendale project.

In May 2004, the council approved building a replacement for Seven Locks on Kendale Road. The school system has already spent $750,000 on planning and design for the Kendale site.

Councilman Howard A. Denis voted against the Kendale site and the cost-increase appropriation, which council staff said could total $2.5 million in the final cost calculations. Denis favors rebuilding Seven Locks on its existing site on Seven Locks Road.

Denis (R-Dist. 1) of Chevy Chase made a motion to vote on that option, which is supported by the Seven Locks PTA and would be an amendment to the fiscal 2006 construction budget.

The motion failed for lack of a second by the committee.

Where that leaves the council remains unclear.

County Council President George L. Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park has said repeatedly that the council does not support the school board’s preference — and now the Education Committee’s recommendation — of building on Kendale Road.

Kathleen Boucher, a County Council attorney, in a memo to Denis on Wednesday, wrote that the board could ‘‘re-appropriate” money set aside two years ago for building at Kendale to instead rebuild on Seven Locks Road.

Boucher wrote that it is ‘‘not clear” if the board could refuse to rebuild at Seven Locks if the council approves that option.

‘‘This is a difference [over the] site,” Denis said. ‘‘I believe strongly that the Kendale site is wrong.”

Michael L. Subin, the committee’s chairman, called for an end to the debate that has pitted school communities in the Churchill cluster against each other.

‘‘The fights have got to stop,” he said. ‘‘This is about the kids. It’s not about the adults. It’s about the kids. It’s a simple as that.”

Committee members, including Councilman Michael J. Knapp (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown, voted unanimously to recommend a feasibility study that would consider accelerating the modernization of Bells Mill Elementary School to a completion date of August 2009.

The Bells Mill PTA has pushed for relief from overcrowding. The school’s enrollment is 50 percent over the building’s capacity and has eight portables, which parents have complained are in poor condition.

The committee also unanimously recommended a feasibility study of facility improvements needed at Potomac Elementary and called for school planners to bring a budget amendment to address those needs in the fiscal 2008 budget.

‘‘My intention is that by this time tomorrow, that entire cluster know what is going to happen,” said Subin (At large) of Gaithersburg.

On Tuesday, the county school board voted to recommend building a new Seven Locks on Kendale Road in Potomac and using the existing Seven Locks building for school system offices or as a holding school for schools undergoing modernizations.