On November 17th, 2014, the MCPS Board of Education approved the Requested Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Capital Budget and Amendments to the FY 2015-2020 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) for MCPS.
These amendments proposed demolishing the Blair G. Ewing Center and Athletic Fields (on Avery Road in Rockville) and redeveloping the site to accommodate the Shady Grove Transportation Depot. The Alternative Education Program (AEP) students would then be relocated to the former English Manor Elementary School, located at 4511 Bestor Drive in Aspen Hill.
Montgomery County Board of Education: Capital Improvement Plan (CIP)
Watch Video of the November 17th Board Discussion and Vote (Click on Item 2 and fast forward to the 41:44 mark)
Since that approval a number of things have happened:
While these developments have been positive, neither the Blair G. Ewing Center or English Manor Elementary School locations have been ruled out for the initial CIP amendment proposals.
Reasons to urge your County Councilmembers to “Say NO to Avery Road!”
1) Location and Infrastructure Considerations
The current depot on Crabbs Branch Way is approximately 35 acres. The new bus depot must support 400 buses and 700 additional vehicles for bus operators, attendants, trainers, mechanics and other support staff and needs to be 33-37 acres. The Blair G. Ewing Location is less than 16 acres. Read More >>
2) Environmental Concerns
The current location of the Blair G. Ewing Center is along Rock Creek Park. By moving the bus depot to that location, there is the potential for major environmental issues impacting the park. The bus depot would presumably include a filling station, which means underground storage tanks and the substantial likelihood of leaks and other pollution running-off directly into the creek. There is also the air and noise pollution that will negatively impact the forest and wildlife. In no other location along the creek is there a commercial plot of that nature so close to the water. Read More >>
3) Financial Waste
These plans are a terrible waste of taxpayer money. The Original approved CIP was $16.6 million for renovations to the existing Blair G. Ewing Center. $36,200 was spent for a feasibility study for those renovations. That study had been completed but never shared. Now the Board requests MOVING an additional $100k FROM THOSE FUNDS and APPLYING THEM FOR THE BUS DEPOT FEASIBILITY STUDY. This doesn’t include a feasibility study for English Manor. The school board will most likely will be asking for additional funds, while they've already wasted money already promised to these students. Read More >>
Please Contact the County Council and ask them to remove the Blair G. Ewing Center (Avery Rd location) from consideration for the bus depot.
These issues are reasons that the AEP should not be moved from the Blair G. Ewing Center:
1) Location and Infrastructure Considerations
The Blair G. Ewing Center draws students from all over the County and is located on a major road. In contrast, English Manor Elementary is tucked away among private residences on a small side road. Relocating the Blair G. Ewing Center to English Manor would create major traffic problems, congestion, and traffic safety issues for local residents.
2) School Overcrowding
Tearing down the current Blair G. Ewing Center (formerly the Mark Twain School) will reduce the inventory of available schools at a time when the County is already struggling with school overcrowding. The school board should not be demolishing a school when over crowding is rampant. Why not instead re-open English Manor as an elementary school (for which it was intended)? Read More >>
3) Building Considerations
The English Manor School is close to a decade OLDER than the Blair G. Ewing Center. The Ewing building is much more updated and in better shape than English Manor school. In addition, Ewing is 85,000 sq ft and on 22+ acres while English Manor is only 57,000 sq ft on 5 acres. Also, the approved renovations funds would greatly improve Ewing, removing the “institutional feel of the current building and provide students with 21st Century Learning Environments on par with their home school.” It would clearly not be in the AEP students' best interests to relocate them to a much older, smaller school with significantly less green space. Read More >>
4) Needs of the Students
This plan does not serve the best interests of the AEP students. Every student deserves the best education possible, and the AEP students deserve no less. The current location is off a major roadway, a necessity for this school since it draws students from all over the County. In contrast, English Manor Elementary is tucked away among private residences, thus better suited for foot traffic. AEP students undoubtedly need better access to public transportation and vocational opportunities, something that is completely lacking in the proposed location. Read More >>
5) Lack of Open and Transparent Selection Process
There was no open and transparent site selection process for moving the Shady Grove Transportation Depot to the current Blair G. Ewing site. There also wasn’t an open and transparent site selection process for moving the Blair G. Ewing Center (formerly the Mark Twain School) to the English Manor site. An open and transparent site selection process is imperative. Read More >>
6) Lack of Community Involvement in this proposal
The needs of the residents and potential impact on the neighborhood -- not only on traffic but on safety -- were not taken into consideration with this proposal. The public was only made aware of the proposed relocation of the Blair G. Ewing Center a few days before the Board of Education was scheduled to hold its public hearings on the CIP. Read More >>
7) Lack of Reliable Feasibility Study
Based on the accelerated timeframe proposed in the CIP, the feasibility study would most-likely need to be conducted during the current school year. The Board's decision puts the cart before the horse, so to speak. Moreover, the entire undertaking of the feasibility studies seem to be a formality, rather than a serious deliberative document, given that the decision has already been made to move Ewing. Read More >>
8) Safety Considerations
Our community has voiced reasonable concerns to the school board regarding safety, based on the information THE BOARD provided. As quoted from the CIP, many of the students enrolled in the Alternative Education Programs (AEPs) have behavioral problems, which can at times be very serious, including “involvement with controlled substances, serious bodily injury, and/or weapons.” In addition, the police were called to the Ewing Center for serious incidents 47 times last school year. The Community would like the Board to work with them to better understand the impact of a move. Read More >>
Contact the MCPS School Board and urge them to continue with the Blair G. Ewing Center Renovation and re-open English Manor Elementary as a much-needed community elementary school.