Fourteen businesses, nonprofit groups and government agencies are seeking to lease Northwood High School in Silver Spring, which was closed by the Montgomery County school board in June after a bitter, four-year battle by area residents to keep it open.
Among the applicants is the U.S. Department of Justice, which is searching for a facility for a national academy for prison officials; the Hebrew Academy of Washington; the county Legal Aid Bureau, and several developers who want to build houses on the University Boulevard site, county records indicate.
The Northwood property is valued at $10.6 million, according to the state tax assessor's office.
At the same time, 24 nonprofit groups, developers and government agencies have applied to take over the $1.2 million site off Kensington Parkway of the old Kensington Junior High School, which was closed in 1979 and demolished shortly afterward.
Among the groups asking to lease or buy the 21-acre Kensington property are the Hindu Temple of Metropolitan Washington, which wants to build a $2.1 million religious center; the Bethesda Assembly of God, which wants to build a church, and several developers who want to build houses, records show.
In the face of declining enrollments, the county over the years has been forced to close dozens of school buildings around the county, usually after fights with the neighborhoods they serve, and the proccess of finding new tenants has often proven to be just as emotional.
Gloria Kratz, chief of space and leasing for the county, said the applications will be sent to the county planning board, which will hold hearings and make a recommendation to the Montgomery County Council.
After another round of hearings, the council will make its own recommendation to County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist, who has final say in the matter, Kratz said.
The council and the planning board only recommend acceptable uses for the property. The county executive makes choices based on the council's recommendation, she said.
Last year, the council liberalized the policy governing new uses for abandoned schools. Housing was included as an acceptable use for the first time, and since then three schools have been converted to apartments for older persons. Another school has been designated for use as housing by single-parent families and others have been leased for day-care centers, private schools or government offices.
The county takes in about $1 million a year from leased former school properties. None of the organizations have submitted a money proposal yet.
Northwood community activists met last week to begin reviewing proposed uses for their former high school, but did not take a position on any of the applications, said Frederica F. Hodges, who heads Northwood Community Solidarity, a group that fought to keep the school open.
"Our concern is that the school not be leased on a long-term basis, because we still believe the system will be forced to reopen Northwood within the next couple of years," said Hodges.
The group, she said, will ask the county to postpone further consideration on leasing the facility until enrollment trends can be examined after school starts in the fall.
The Rock Creek Hills Citizen Association is the only group that has gone on record thus far about the proposed reuse of the Kensington site. The group, which represents 647 households, has urged the county to turn the property into a park.
The county parks department has proposed building two soccer fields, a practice field, two tennis courts and a basketball court on the property.