Faced with dwindling enrollments, schools are closing in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. What happens to the buildings once the students have moved out? The following stories examine the uses of surplus schools in each of the counties .
It took a fleet of buses, traveling a total of 4,000 miles a day, to transport handicapped clients to the Centers for the Handicapped at the Centers' old location in Rockville.
But the transportation situation improved dramatically this spring when the nonprofit, private educational institution moved into the former Hillandale Elementary School in White Oak.
"This is an ideal, centralized location for our clients - some of whom come from as far away as Poolesville and Accokeek," said the Centers's public relations director Steve Warner. "We serve clients from Montgomery and Prince George's counties. In Rockville we were isolated in an industrial area, and our Prince George's center was operating out of a church in Burtonsville.
"One of our biggest concerns was how we would be accepted by the neighborhood," added Warner, who said the institution serves both Montgomery and Prince George's counties and emphasizes taking clients into the community to teach them "life skills" such as shopping and using public transportation.
"In three months we'ver had no complaints. I'd say we have a very harmonious situation with our neighbors."
Hillandale is one of 23 Montgomery County schools closed by the Board of Education since 1973; 21 of those have been closed in the last three years.
Declining enrollments have resulted in a loss of about 18,000 students in a five-year period. Projected enrollment for this September is 108,000, down from a peak enrollment of 126,311 in September 1972.
The school system retained six of its surplus schools for use as special education centers, office space or to house students while other schools are being renovated.
McKennedy Hills in Silver Spring and Carl Sandburg in Rockville became special education centers for handicapped children. Springmill in Silver Spring, Whittier Woods in Bethesda and Tuckerman in Potomac are now used as school system offices. Woodley Gardens in Rockville is being used to house student from a special education facility in Kensington.
The first school closed is now a park. The site of Silver Spring Intermediate, torn down in 1973 because it was 40 years old and needed renovation, is now a grassy, landscaped area in Takoma Park.
This left the school board with 16 surplus school buildings. The Board of Education transferred these facilities to the county in accordance with a state law that requires all schools no longer used for education or education-related purposes to be transferred to the local government.
In the fall of 1975, the county Office of Planning and Capital Programming became responsible for the reuse and disposition of these surplus buildings.
A five-member committee, with each member representing a different county agency, sent information about the available school buildings to every government and public agency in the county. Private agencies were advised of buildings available after public agencies were exhausted.
Two major criteria used to choose among applicants were anticipated costs to the county and the impact the facility might have on the community.
Local residents had their say at public meetings held to present proposed uses to the community. If the reuse was acceptable to the committee and the community, lease negotiations began.
"Attendance at these community meetings ranged from three to 300," noted Jim Boston, a committee member from the county Office of Planning and Capital Programing. "We did have some complaints from residents before the new users occupied the building. For instance, people called to ask that we cut the grass because the grounds looked like the devil.
"But once the buildings were occupied we've had no major problems or complaints. So far the new users seem to be well received."
The disposition of the county's 16 surplus school buildings are as follows:
Alta Vista in Bethesda was leased to the Town and Country Day School.
MacDonald Knolls in Wheaton was leased to joint occupants - the Montgomery County Association of Retired Citizens and the Centers for the Handicapped.
Montgomery Hills Junior High in Silver Spring was leased to the Hebrew Academy.
Bushey Drive in Wheaton is now the Montgomery County Recreation Department Headquarters and Street 70 cultural facility.
Parkside Upper in Silver Spring is now the parks division headquarters of the Montgomery County Park and Planning Commission, while Parkside Lower was leased to the Acorn Nursery.
Fernwood in Bethesda was leased to Our Lady of the Woods Academy.
Burnt Mills in Silver Spring was leased to the Centers for the Handicapped.
Park Street in Rockville is now used as county government offices.
Dennis Avenue in Silver Spring will become the Montgomery County Health Department Central Clinic.
Colesville in Silver Spring will be the location of the Area Five Recreation Department, the Northeast Health Center, a private day care facility and several other organizations.
Glenmont in Silver Spring is being leased to Montessori Inc.
Holiday Park in Wheaton will become a multipurpose senior center.
Aspen Hill will be leased to the McLean School.
The future of Maryvale in Rockville and Clara Barton in Glen Echo is still under discussion.