Bailey's Upper Elementary School. 
PHOTO | Fairfax County School System

MCPS Workgroup to Look at New School Designs

A new workgroup is taking a look at how Montgomery County school system designs its future schools.

Bailey's Upper Elementary School  PHOTO | Fairfax County School System

Bailey’s Upper Elementary School.
PHOTO | Fairfax County School System

The group is looking at the size, scope and shape of schools that can be built in Montgomery County, including whether schools can be built taller here or in former commercial buildings.

James Song, director of facilities for Montgomery County Public Schools, says the initative derived from stakeholders who want to explore alternative ways to design schools that could minimize the amount of land needed.

The group includes representatives from the Maryland Department of Education, county executive’s office, Montgomery County Council, school board, Montgomery County PTA and other stakeholders, Song told MyMCMedia.

“One of the ideas is taking a look at how feasible is it to use some vacant commercial spaces as a potential school,” Song said.

It’s an idea that has been done already in neighboring Fairfax County, Va.

Bailey’s Elementary School was at 130 percent capacity (nearly 1,400 students) when the Fairfax County School Board purchased a vacant office building at 6245 Leesburg Pike in Falls Church on December 20, 2013, according to John Torre, Fairfax County school system’s public information officer. The conversion of the building into FCPS’ first vertical design school was completed in less than nine months, he said. Bailey’s Upper Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences opened in Sept. 2014. It is a second Bailey’s campus. One principal oversees both campuses, Torre said.

The 101,000-square-foot building has the capacity for 795 students. The school was approximately 100 students below program capacity when it opened. Bailey’s Upper houses students in grades 3-5, while Bailey’s Elementary continues to house students in preschool to grade 2.

Total cost for the building and construction was $19.9 million which includes the purchase price of $9.37 million, according to Torre.

Song said the interest in alternative school designs is growing from the need to build urban schools and position the school system for future growth in school population. The school design is constrained somewhat by codes and standards for school construction, Song said, that require a cafeteria, gym, administrative offices, kindergarten and first grade on the first floor of the school building.

“This is about how we think outside the box, design alternatives to minimize the site needs,” Song said.

The workgroup is expected to meet for several months to research the issue before making any recommendation to the school system, Song said.

You can see a video about the Bailey’s school here.

Krista Brick

About Krista Brick

Krista Brick is a multi-media journalist with Montgomery Community Media.


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