Brickyard site to be considered for elementary school in Potomac

April 5, 2013

What was once an organic farm on Brickyard Road could become the new home for Potomac Elementary School.

Less than two months have passed since the closure of a nearly two-year land battle concerning 20 acres on Brickyard Road in Potomac, and the school system is looking at another option for the land.

Montgomery County Public Schools has asked those planning the modernization of Potomac Elementary School to investigate if the school could be moved to the site, according to a letter sent to the elementary school community on March 22.

The decision to consider the land as a site for the school came as a surprise to the school’s principal, Linda Goldberg, and a parent who also is a member of the modernization planning committee, Lissa Levin.

It wasn’t in the original scope of the modernization to consider other sites for the school, and they had just recommended best options for the school’s new layout, according to both Goldberg and Levin.

Goldberg laughed Thursday when saying she expects many more people to come to planning meetings now.

The last plan for the Brickyard land brought on lawsuits that cost the school system $200,000 and spurred state elected officials to write to the county asking it to allow Nick Maravell, who had leased the land for 30 years for organic farming, to continue his lease.

Maravell’s lease expired March of last year, but it was extended until August 2012.

Because that lease was set to expire, the Montgomery County Board of Education entered into an agreement with the county, which entered into a lease with Montgomery Soccer Inc. to put soccer fields on the site.

The Brickyard Coalition, consisting of community organizations and residents, sued the school board, stating that the community was not properly involved in the discussions on the new lease arrangement.

All lawsuits were dropped last month when County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) canceled the lease giving no specific reason. That decision put the property back in the lap of the school board.

Some residents celebrated after Leggett made his decision.

The school board decided after the fact that it should introduce a formal process for evaluating what to do with its inventory of future school sites. Board member Philip Kauffman introduced a resolution March 12 asking the board’s policy committee to look at this issue.

The board has not yet passed a policy.

The board found out that the school system would be studying the Brickyard site via a memo a few weeks ago, Board President Christopher S. Barclay said.

Already, the school system is starting off on the wrong foot, said Keith Williams, a member of the Brickyard Coalition.

He wasn’t notified of the new study, despite how involved he was in the debates when the school system turned the land over to the county, he said.

Williams said he and others from the coalition will be at the elementary school’s planning meetings. Two work sessions on the school’s modernization are scheduled to be conducted April 18 and April 30, with a final PTA presentation scheduled for May 15. All meetings are scheduled at 7 p.m. at the school.

The letter that was sent to the Potomac community states that community interest is what triggered the study, although Goldberg and Levin did not hear parents asking for this option.

“I’m not aware this was from the community in any sense,” Levin said.

James Song, the school system’s director of facilities management, said someone mentioned the idea in one of the planning committee meetings, and the school system may have gotten an e-mail about it.

The school system explores any options that have merit, Song said.

Goldberg said the current school site at 10311 River Road has enough room to house the modernized school, and there were no major problems with the plans that had been proposed. The school site is 9.6 acres, according to a school system document.

The Potomac Elementary modernization is meant to both upgrade the existing facility and increase capacity, since the school is currently overcrowded, Song said. The modernization is set to be completed in January 2018.

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