Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

Avalon School to submit new site plans

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Avalon School officials plan to submit an updated site plan this week to county planners for a new school in Clarksburg.

‘‘I don’t know how fast it takes to get a building up, but we’re shooting for September 2009,” said Rich McPherson, school headmaster. ‘‘This delays things a bit...but there are bumps in the road all along the way.”

The Avalon School, a school for boys in grades three through 12, has been housed since it opened in 2003 at a county school building on Goldsboro Road in Bethesda.

Brookewood School headmaster Joe McPherson, Rich’s brother, said there were no immediate plans to move the one-year-old school from the St. Paul United Methodist Church classrooms on Armory Avenue in Kensington.

The school opened last September as an all-girl sister school to The Avalon School. It will not move to the Goldsboro Road property once vacated.

‘‘It’s such a great location,” McPherson said of the Kensington site. ‘‘It’s perfect because the girls walk out the door and they’re in the middle of an historic community.”

The new boys’ school, however, still needs a special exception from the Montgomery County Board of Appeals to build a three-building campus in Clarksburg, at the corner of Frederick Road and Shawnee Lane.

But a fence around the property and traffic counts were missing from the school’s site plan application, and the board delayed approval in August until the school corrected the mistakes.

Rich McPherson said those changes were made and a new plan will be submitted to the county this week.

The school has 11 vans that transport about 140 of the 230 students to school each day, and many of those families live in upcounty neighborhoods.

Building a school closer to the majority of their parents made sense for the Avalon Education Group Board of Directors and school officials.

‘‘There are few private schools in the area and we can create our own little niche,” McPherson said. ‘‘But really, most of our parents are in upcounty. It’s not by choice that we’re down here in Bethesda.”

The five-year-old school plans to build a classroom building, gymnasium with locker rooms and a weight room and a separate cafeteria and performance hall. The estimated cost is at least $19 million.

‘‘We’ll have a nice picture of the new campus displayed at our back to school cookout this week,” he said on Monday. ‘‘It’ll keep the parents interested and excited, I know I’m excited about it.”

Joe McPherson said the Avalon Education Group may start other schools in the future, but have no timeline to do so.

‘‘That’s why the Web site is called ‘avalonschools.com’, plural,” he said. ‘‘We’ve always planned on multiple schools in several locations.”

Staff Writer Titus Ledbetter III contributed to this report.