ASPEN HILL – Parents and community activists are saying no to a move by the school system they say may put their neighborhood in danger. Activists from the Aspen Hill Civic Association and the Aspen Hill Homeowners association are asking the Montgomery County Board of Education to reconsider moving the county’s alternative education program from the Blair G. Ewing building in Rockville to the English Manor School. The Blair Ewing Center is being demolished to make way for a new bus depot.
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Email sent by Melissa Ryan, newly elected president of the Aspen Hill Civic Association Board (AHCA), and active member of the Steering Committee of the Aspen Hill Homeowners Group (AHHG).
Date: November 13, 2014 at 11:07:53 AM EST
To: "firstname.lastname@example.org" <email@example.com>
Esteemed members of the MCPS Board:
Please allow me to add my comments to the record on the proposal in the Capital Improvement Plans (CIP) to move Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Alternative Education Programs (AEPs) at the Blair Ewing Center from its current site near on Avery Road in Rockville to the site of the former English Manor Elementary School on Bestor Drive in Aspen Hill. As a resident of Aspen Hill, as the newly elected president of the Aspen Hill Civic Association Board (AHCA), and as an active member of the Steering Committee of the Aspen Hill Homeowners Group (AHHG), I am deeply concerned about the potential effects that this proposal may have both on the Aspen Hill community and the Blair Ewing students.
First, I was disappointed that both AHHG and AHCA first learned of this proposal this week. I am grateful to the individuals who brought the proposal to the attention of these groups, but I regret that only having a few days to notice has seriously impeded our community groups from engaging in a robust and informed discussion on this proposal. Moreover, it has deprived these communities of the opportunity to ask key questions, and receive clarification that could potentially assuage community concerns. Therefore at the present time, I can only speak for myself, the many AHCA Board members I spoke with, many AHHG members, and those members of the community who have voiced their concerns about these plans to these groups via e-mail and social media.
Many in the Aspen Hill community are troubled by the prospect of moving the MCPS AEPs to the site on Bestor Drive because it will bring an influx of school bus traffic from all over the county into a very residential neighborhood in Aspen Hill. This influx into a neighborhood that has never before experienced the level of potential school bus induced gridlock this plan is likely to create is unacceptable to everyone in the Aspen Hill community I have spoken to about this issue thus far. While this site did previously operate as a school, it should be noted that at that time it was a neighborhood elementary school to which many students walked. I urge the Board of the MCPS to rethink this proposal on this basis alone. And as I listened to the testimony this Wednesday evening outlining how many schools in the area use trailers as a result of school overcrowding, I wonder why there is no discussion of using the former English Manor Elementary School site as a neighborhood school again to ease this overcrowding.
Moreover, it appears the prime reason for relocating the AEP students to the site on Bestor is the desire to relocate the bus depot to their current location on Avery Road. Placing the bus depot on Avery will have big impacts on all the surrounding area streets: Norbeck Road is already a busy arterial road and would likely bear the brunt of the dispatching buses. There would likely be additional adverse effects on other Aspen Hill thoroughfares including Bauer Drive, Aspen Hill Road, Parkland Drive, and Veirs Mill Road as buses would likely use these as connector routes. It is the understanding of many in the Aspen Hill community that the money to update English Manor was originally earmarked to the Blair Ewing Center building on Avery Road. If the depot does not come to Avery Road, there is no immediate need to relocate the school.
Some in Aspen Hill have also voiced concerns about relocating a school for students who have had difficulty being successful in traditional school settings into a residential neighborhood so close to several other schools. Some members of the Aspen Hill community are reasonably concerned that having a school that specializes in serving students who may have behavioral or attendance problems—or who may have been involved in serious disciplinary actions that warrant expulsion including substance abuse, weapons, or incidents involving serious bodily injury—in the neighborhood could threaten the peace and stability of the neighborhood. One community member who lives across the street from the proposed new site is particularly concerned about his children’s ability to play in their yard or wait for their school bus at times when AEP students may be going to or leaving the site school.
However, I would like to point out that for many, this concern is not just about those who live in the surrounding community, but also about the well-being and success of the students in the AEPs themselves. All of us in the Aspen Hill community want every child in Montgomery County to have the best chance at success, and to that end, we do believe that the AEPs were placed at the Avery Road site for good reason. It provides a more pastoral setting where they can focus on their studies and the nature around them. It is in no one’s best interest to uproot these students to move them to a residential neighborhood where they may have more distractions, and potentially more opportunities to run afoul of MCPS or other rules, further inhibiting their chances at future success.
I understand that the bus depot must be moved out of Shady Grove in the coming years. However, I urge you to find a location other than the Blair Ewing Center to house it. Please do not uproot the MCPS AEP students from their current locations.
Thank you for your consideration.