The Montgomery County School Board voted unanimously this week to close Maryvale and Holiday Park Elementary Schools at the end of this school year, bringing to three the number of schools the board has closed in the past month.
The board will decide at the end of this month or in February whether to close another three county elementary schools, as Superintendent Charles M. Bernardo has recommended. With enrollments declining sharply in county schools, the school board has closed 15 elementary schools and one junior high since 1974. Last month, the board voted to close Woodley Gardens Elementary School.
In voting to close Maryvale in Rockville, the board agreed to convert Southlawn Middle School to an elementary school and to reassign Maryvale's students there.The board did not make a decision on where to reassign the students now at Holiday Park in the Kensington-Wheaton area, agreeing instead to work with local residents to determine where the students should be sent.
With its decision to close Holiday Park, the board in effect spared Rock Creek Palisades, one of the other elementary schools that had been considered for closing. The board also decided to defer action on the future of Kensington Elementary, the other school in the Kensington-Wheaton area that had been mentioned as a candidate for closing.
Board member Herbert Benington noted there were "some very difficult aspects" to the decisions to close particular schools but said that communities usually adjusted well to closings they originally opposed.
At last week's public hearing on the school closings, parents of children at Holiday Park Elementary argued that closing their school would jeopardize an extensive auditory program for children with hearing problems.
However, parents from Maryvale Elementary in Rockville testified that they would accept the closing of their school because their children and some of the staff will be moved as a group to the building now occupied by Southlawn Middle School. Southlawn, which contains grades 5-8, would be extensively revamped with its 6th, 7th and 8th graders going to the new Broome Middle School in September.
Holiday Park parents told the board that this would be the second time the special auditory program has been moved in the past three years.
"Any service can be duplicated," testified Leona O'Reilly, the mother of severl children in the auditory program, "but it took about two years for teachers to set up some feeling among regular staff about how to relate with the children in the program. It took time and guidance to get (normal) children to understand how to interact with the auditory program children."
Bernardo told the parents that the continuum education staff, which supervises special education in Montgomery County public schools, was investigating schools where the auditory program could be placed. "I think we can place it in an equal if not better place," he said.
Community residents who send their children to schools that were studied, but were not recommended for closure by the superintendent, also testified. Parents whose children attend Rock Creek Palisades Elementary in Kensington - one of the several schools studied in the cluster that includes Holiday Park - told the board they supported closing Holiday Park.
If Holiday Park were not closed, Bernardo had recommended that Rock Creek Palisades be closed, a move that parents said was not wise.
"I have one daughter in Rock Creek Palisades and one daughter in the auditory program at Holiday Park," said Francis Ventre. "Our family is behind Rock Creek Palisades. It's a solid anchor in the community.The Holiday Park auditory program is impressive in its quality and humanity. But it's the professionals, not the fixtures, that make the program. It's not forever wedded to one school."
Maryvale parents told the board they would support the closing of their school because the Maryvale Elementary, which includes grades K-5, will move to the Southlawn Middle School building in Rockville.
"We're all upset by the upheaval," said Irene Dawson, chairman of Maryvale's local evaluation committee. "We're happy where we are in the Maryvale building, but since we were put on the list for possible closing, we've opted for this arrangement."
However, the local evaluation committee from the Southlawn school does not think it is the best thing for their children, according to its chairman, Grace Crabtree. She said Southlawn has had three principals in the past three years. If the schools closes, the children will have to go another school with another principal, Crabtree said.
Besides, she said, "Southlawn is not an elementary school. It should not have been on the list (of possible schools to close) to begin with. It's a secondary school," she said referring to the fact that Southlawn contains grades 7 and 8. The board voted last fall not to consider any secondary schools for closure this year.