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Posted at 08:51 AM ET, 11/09/2011

Timeline: In Bethesda-Chevy Chase, a school becomes a park becomes an (almost) school

Montgomery Superintendent Joshua Starr on Tuesday outlined a new, more transparent process for selecting land for a second middle school in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster.

He recommended that the Board of Education rescind its April 28 vote to build the school on Rock Creek Hills Park property and that it launch another search. Homeowners association members should be included on the site selection advisory committee, he said, and their meetings should be managed by an external facilitator, among other changes.

Starr’s decision to the rethink the location for the next middle school took many parents by surprise. And I’m sure many people will be weighing in on it during the public hearings on the school district’s capital plan, starting Thursday night.

This timeline, assembled by school officials, is a helpful tool in understanding the history of the search for land in this area, and how the site was selected in the first place.

Chronology of events concerning Rock Creek Hills local park property and site selection activities for Bethesda-Chevy Chase middle school #2

The following chronology provides a history of the Rock Creek Hills Local Park, including this location as the home of the former Kensington Jr. High School, and property transfers that occurred following the school’s closure. This is followed by a chronology of events concerning selection of this property for the new Bethesda-Chevy Chase Middle School #2 (B-CC MS#2.)

1937 to 2009 - From Kensington Jr. High School to use as a park

April 16, 1937

A 27.1 acre parcel—that more than encompasses the current Rock Creek Hills Local Park—was acquired by the Board of Education from Continental Life Insurance Company for use as a junior high school. In 1938 a strip of less than one acre was added to the parcel.

September 1939

Kensington Jr. High School was opened on the property.

Sept. 5, 1951

The Board of Education transferred 6.4 acres to the Maryland-National Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC). This was associated with the right-of-way along Kensington Parkway.

July 1, 1979

Due to declining enrollment Kensington Jr. High School was closed. For a period of time the property remained in Board of Education ownership.

Between 1987 and 1990

Kensington Jr. High School was razed.

Feb. 24, 1988

The Board of Education transferred the 21.6 acre school property to the county. The transfer agreement indicated if the property was needed in the future for construction of a public school facility, and the county executive concurred with this with that determination, then the property would be transferred back to the Board of Education.

Feb. 9, 1990 and May 10, 1990

On Feb. 9, 1990 the county signed a transfer agreement for the 21.6 acre former school property with the M-NCPPC for use as a park. The transfer agreement included the previous stipulation that if the property was needed in the future for construction of a public school facility, and the county executive concurred with this with that determination, then the property would be transferred back to the Board of Education. On May 10, 1990 the deed for the property was finalized.

Feb. 25, 1991

The M-NCPPC transferred 8.2 acres of the park property to the Montgomery County Housing Commission (HOC) for use as a senior assisted living facility.

Feb. 5, 1992

The Maryland Board of Public Works approved “Program Open Space” (POS) funds that were requested by M-NCPPC for development of the Rock Creek Hills Local Park. Program Open Space is a program managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources that distributes funds from the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. A total of $171,988.64 was received for use by M-NCPPC to develop the local park to include: soccer fields, basketball courts, trails, playgrounds, tennis courts and a parking lot.

The use of Program Open Space funds for development of this park was inconsistent with the reclamation terms of the transfer agreement under which M-NCPPC took title to the property. This was the case since use of Program Open Space funds places restrictions on future public uses of parks, in contradiction with the terms of the original transfer agreement.

2010 to 2011 – Site Selection of the new B-CC MS #2

Nov. 18, 2010

Action by the Board of Education directed the superintendent of schools to:

*Begin the site selection process for a new Bethesda-Chevy Chase Cluster middle school, known as Bethesda-Chevy Chase Middle School #2 (B-CC MS #2).

*Include design and construction funds for the new middle school in the fall 2011 Superintendent’s Recommended FY 2013 Capital Budget and FY 2013–2018 Capital Improvements Program (CIP).

*Incorporate in the elementary school boundary study—to be conducted in Spring 2011 concerning Bethesda, Chevy Chase, North Chevy Chase, and Rosemary Hills elementary schools—the reassignment of Grade 6 students at Chevy Chase and North Chevy Chase elementary schools to the middle school level when the new middle school is opened.

Dec. 14, 2010 and Jan. 25, 2011

The Site Selection Advisory Committee (SSAC) for the B-CC MS #2 met to review candidate sites and to make a recommendation to the superintendent of schools. See Attachment A for a description of the process, the candidate sites considered, the criteria used for evaluation of the sites, the basis for eliminating eight sites, and the recommendation of two sites—Rosemary Hills/Lyttonsville Local Park and Rock Creek Hills Local Park.

March 8, 2011

The SSAC Recommendation was presented as a confidential report to members of the Board of Education in closed session. Action on the site was scheduled for March 28, 2011. (See Attachment B for SSAC Report.)

March 21, 2011

The following Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) staff briefed staff at the Montgomery County Department of Parks regarding the site selection process for Bethesda-Chevy Chase Middle School #2: James Song, director, Department of Facilities Management, Bruce Crispell, director, Division of Long-range Planning, Janice Turpin, team leader, Real Estate Management Team, and MaryPat Wilson, real estate management specialist, Real Estate Management Team. The staff from the Department of Parks was apprised of the two recommended sites—Rosemary Hills/ Lyttonsville Local Park and Rock Creek Hills Local Park, and informed that the Rosemary Hills/Lyttonsville Local Park site was the preferred site.

March 28, 2011

The agenda for the Board of Education meeting of March 28, 2011 was posted several days before the meeting. The agenda indicated that the Board would take action on the recommendation of Rosemary Hills/ Lyttonsville Local Park as the site for the new B-CC MS#2. This was the first public notice that this site was recommended for the new middle school. Public release of this recommendation mobilized the community surrounding the site to oppose the use of this property for the new middle school.

Due to a full agenda and feedback from the communities surrounding the Rosemary Hills/Lyttonsville Park site, the Board of Education postponed action on the B-CC MS#2 site until its meeting scheduled for April 28, 2011.

April 7, 2011

Jerry D. Weast, former superintendent of schools, sent a memorandum to the Board of Education, providing an update on the site selection process and concerns that were being expressed by communities surrounding the Rosemary Hills/Lyttonsville Local Park site. (See Attachment C.)

April 13, 2011

The Board of Education authorized release of the previously confidential Site Selection Committee Report so that the reasoning behind the recommendation of the Rosemary Hills/Lyttonsville Local Park site could be shared and so that other sites that were reviewed could be known. (See Attachment D.)

Also, on April 13, 2011, Bruce Crispell, director Division of Long-range Planning, sent an e-mail to John Robinson, president of the Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association and to Rosenberg, a member of the Association, to advise them of the release of the SSAC report and to indicate that the Rock Creek Hills Local Park was the alternate site recommended by the SSAC. They were also informed that April 28, 2011 was the date that the Board of Education was scheduled to take action on a middle school site. (See Attachment E.)

April 21, 2011

At the request of communities surrounding the Rosemary Hills/Lyttonsville Local Park property, MCPS Department of Facilities Management staff attended a community meeting at the Coffield Center, located adjacent to the Rosemary Hills/Lyttonsville Local Park property, to explain the site selection process. Bruce Crispell, director, Division of Long-range Planning and Janice Turpin, team leader, Real Estate Management Team, attended the meeting. At this meeting they explained the site selection process, the candidate sites that were reviewed, and the rationale for the recommendation of the Rosemary Hills/Lyttonsville Local Park site.

April 27, 2011

Christopher S. Barclay, president, Montgomery County Board of Education, received a letter from Francoise M. Carrier, chair, Montgomery County Planning Board. The letter indicated that the Planning Board, the owner of county parks, would not sanction the conversion of parkland to public school uses. The letter specifically objected to the selection of the Rosemary Hills/Lyttonsville Local Park for conversion to a school site. The letter also acknowledged that the alternate recommended site, Rock Creek Hills Local Park—unlike Rosemary Hills/Lyttonsville—included a clause in the deed that transferred the property from Board of Education ownership, specifically providing for the ability to reclaim the site for a school if needed in the future. (See Attachment F.)

April 28, 2011

Christopher S. Barclay, president, Montgomery County Board of Education, received a letter from Isiah Leggett, county executive, Montgomery County. The letter urged the Board of Education to look more closely at the Rock Creek Hills Local Park site, since, as Leggett noted, “this site was acquired for use as a school, served the community as a junior high school, and has a reclaim right in the documents transferring it.” (See Attachment G.)

Also on April 28, 2011, the Board of Education met in closed session prior to their public meeting. In closed session, Board members discussed the provisions in the existing deed between the Board of Education and the County and the provisions of leases and agreements between the County and others as they relate to the acquisition of real property— which were mentioned in recent letters from Carrier and Leggett. The Board was informed of a modification in the resolution conveying the Superintendent’s recommendation from a resolution that recommended a feasibility study for the Rosemary/Lyttonsville site to a resolution that specifically proposed a feasibility study for Rock Creek Hills Local Park as well.

During the public Board of Education meeting and after extensive discussion, the Board approved a resolution selecting the Rock Creek Hills Local Park as the site for the new Bethesda-Chevy Chase Middle School #2 and authorizing feasibility study—the first stage of planning for the school. (See Attachment H.)

May 17, 2011

At the request of the Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association, MCPS Department of Facilities Management staff attended a community meeting at North Chevy Chase Elementary School to explain the site selection process and Board of Education action. Bruce Crispell, director, Division of Long-range Planning, Joyce Jessell, former acting director, Division of Construction, Dennis Cross, architect, Division of Construction, and Janice Turpin team leader, Real Estate Management Team, attended the meeting. Staff explained the site selection process, the candidate sites that were reviewed, and the rationale for the selection of the Rock Creek Hills Local Park site by the Board of Education. At this meeting the Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association took a vote to oppose the use of the park for the new middle school.

May 18, 2011

John Robinson sent a letter to Christopher S. Barclay protesting the selection of the Rock Creek Hills Local Park as the site for the new middle school and indicated that the Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association would appeal the decision to the Maryland State Board of Education. (See Attachment I.)

May 20, 2011

Jerry D. Weast, former superintendent of schools, sent a memorandum to the Board of Education to update Board members on the decision of the Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association to appeal to the Maryland State Board of Education action to select the Rock Creek Hills Local Park site for the new B-CC MS#2. (See Attachment J.)

May 26, 2011

On May 26, 2011, the Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association filed an appeal to the Maryland State Board of Education regarding action by the Montgomery County Board of Education to select Rock Creek Hills Local Park as the site for the new middle school. (See Attachment K for the initial appeal as well as supplements to the appeal and responses to the Board of Education Motion to Dismiss.)

Attachment L provides the July 14, 2011, Montgomery County Board of Education response to the appeal of the Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association, and a filing for a Motion to Dismiss or, in the alternative, a Motion for Summary Affirmance. Attachment L also includes the Aug.10, 2011, Board of Education Surreply to the appellants’ response to the Motion to Dismiss.

On May 26, 2011, Christopher S. Barclay responded to Robinson’s letter of May 18, 2011, and urged the Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association to become engaged in the feasibility study as a way to address their concerns over use of the site for a middle school. (See Attachment M.)

June 4, 2011

Samuel L. Statland, vice president of the Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association, filed a complaint with the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board alleging violation of the Open Meetings Act by the Montgomery County Board of Education. See Appendix N for the complaint, as well as the Board of Education response, and the opinion of the Open Meetings Compliance Board.

The Compliance Board’s opinion, that is advisory, concluded that the Montgomery County Board of Education violated the Open Meetings Act in that its resolution to close the April 28, 2011, session and its original public summary of the closed session merely repeated the statutory exception. It also found that the proceedings of the Site Selection Advisory Committee should have been conducted in accordance with the Open Meetings Act, but that, contrary to Statland’s assertion, the Committee could adjourn from public to closed session under the exception applicable to matters related to acquisition of real property for a public purpose.

Summer 2011

A feasibility study for the new middle school was conducted over five meetings, from early June, 2011 through August 2011. The study included input from a range of stakeholders, including representatives of the Rock Creek Hills community. The feasibility study determined that construction of a new middle school at the Rock Creek Hills Local Park site was feasible and could be done in such a way as to mitigate its impact on the surrounding community.

Oct. 28, 2011

The Superintendent’s Recommended FY 2013 Capital Budget and FY 2013–2018 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) was released. The CIP includes a recommendation for design and construction funds for B-CC MS#2 at the Rock Creek Hills Local Park site.

December 2011

The Maryland State Board of Education’s ruling on the Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association appeal of the selection of the Rock Creek Hills Local Park site as the location for B-CC M #2 is expected to be released.

By  |  08:51 AM ET, 11/09/2011

 
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