Rachel Carson PTA Suggests New Lakelands Elementary and Study to Expand RCES

Parents packed into the Rachel Carson Elementary School media room Wednesday to try to figure out what to do about the school’s persistent overcrowding issue.Rachel Carson Elementary, ablue ribbon school, in Montgomery County , Maryland

Tops on the list for the school’s Parent Teacher Association is having the county look into building a new school within the Lakelands community in Gaithersburg as well as taking another look at ways the current school can be expanded to accommodate more children.

Rachel Carson at about 1,000 kids is about 300 students over capacity and is listed as one of the most consistently over capacity schools in the district. Recently, Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr released his supplemental Capital Improvements Plan with a nod to the issue at the Gaithersburg school. His plan recommends a feasibility study to explore additions to Jones Lane Elementary School in Darnestown and DuFief Elementary School on DuFief Drive in Gaithersburg, which could then alleviate the crowding at Rachel Carson. Rachel Carson has ten portable classrooms on site this year, according to school officials. According to Starr’s report, the school is not a viable location for an expansion project.

Parents Wednesday night talked about whether expanding Rachel Carson is possible by adding a wing on the upper field they say is owned by the City of Gaithersburg. Jud Ashman, soon-to-be Mayor of the Gaithersburg who attended the meeting, said he was not sure if the city owned the land and would not comment about the proposal. Other parents suggested fencing the upper field so students who spend recess have a contained area on which to play. Principal Larry Chep told MyMCMedia he was not in favor of fencing in the field because that would create only one entrance and exit location in case there was an emergency.

The PTA pointed to a 2007 feasibility study they said they have been told concluded that the site was not sufficiently sized for an addition to the school. But, the PTA complained they have not been able to locate this feasibility study. Wednesday night in a straw vote, the group said they would like a new feasibility study to give the idea a second look.

But they also unofficially voted to also start the process of looking at a new school for the community that could be built, they say, on property where the county currently houses the Department of Liquor Control and parking for the Public Safety Headquarters off Route 28. The city also owns about 4 acres of lands in that complex that had been set aside for a future aquatic center.According to Cheryl Peirce, MCC PTA CIP committee chairwoman, the average new elementary school costs about $30 million.

Bill Enright, one of the Quince Orchard cluster coordinators who attended the meeting Wednesday night warned parents that asking MCPS to open a new elementary school might lead them to a site that is not within the Lakelands community since it would be addressing capacity issues cluster-wide.

“All sites could be considered if they decide to build a new school in the cluster. It may not be what you want,” he said.

Some parents like Britt Schwendinger, said they were willing to look at an option of redistricting.

“I am thrilled the superintendent is advocating taking off the blinders to look at capacity elsewhere. I am also open to new construction. My hope is that we can move this forward for the future parents who are still on their way here,” she told the group of about 75 people who attended the meeting.

Parent Paula Ross said she was concerned Starr’s proposal would create uncertainty for the community which could affect housing.

“Living in the unknown during the superintendent’s feasibility study will put community in a tizzy,” she said at the meeting.

Others were concerned about fixing the core building insufficiencies in the immediate timeframe as well as what they consider as lack of supervision during recess.

Quince Orchard Cluster Coordinators are expected to present testimony about the CIP supplemental proposal at a meeting school board meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov 13.

 
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Krista Brick

About Krista Brick

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

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