Here is an open letter to the Montgomery County Council in response to the Memorandum from Council staff on this issue. Councilmembers will use the staff Memorandum to cast their votes. Shouldn't Councilmembers have all of the facts before they decide to demolish a usable, paid for, 600 seat public school building?
January 28, 2015
Esteemed Council Members,
6) The memo is wrongly comparing the potential solutions of English Manor with the EXISTING structure of the Ewing Center. This document needs to compare these solutions with those presented in the completed Ewing renovation feasibility study (link provided above). That study solves all of issues that this memo asserts can only be solved by English Manor. Here are some examples -
- A) The memo states that in the current Blair Ewing facility (circled page 15), "the specialty classrooms (Le. art, music, science, drama, and PEl are located in different parts of the facility, which would create more interaction between middle and high school students than desired." Page 41 of the Ewing renovation feasibility study shows that option #3 puts all of these classrooms in the same location, thus eliminating the issue being cited.
- B) The memo states that (on circled page 14) "In addition, due to the current building layout and multi-levels [of the Ewing Center], it would be difficult to create a clear circulation path or improved supervision .." yet, the plan for English Manor is to locate the students on multiple levels as well. The completed feasibility study for the Ewing renovation states (page 44) "The corridors are able to widen create locker commons. These moves remove the institutional feel of the current building and provide students with 21st Century Learning Environments on par with their home school."
- C) From a footprint standpoint, this memo states twice that the facility size of English Manor is much smaller than what is required of the AEP program.On circled page 14, "The current Blair Ewing site is approximately 22.5 acres compared to English Manor which is approximately 8.25 acres. The Blair Ewing facility is over 85,000 GSF compared to English Manor which is approximately 50,000 GSF. Based on the student population and program needs for the revised alternative education programs (AEP), approximately 70,000-75,000 GSF is required to support the programs." Also on circled page 15, "Although the current English Manor facility was a former elementary school and the square footage is smaller than what is required for the AEP, the proposed addition would allow MCPS to provide the specialty and career technology education (CTE) classrooms needed to support the program." Considering that the site acreage is significantly smaller than the Ewing property, how is there space to add enough square footage as the memo states is needed? Again, no feasibility study so any statements around English Manor are speculation.
- D) The memo states (on circled page 15) that each Ewing Center classroom has their own bathrooms. Staff would like these removed. Page 47 of the Ewing renovation feasibility study shows that individual bathrooms have been removed as requested.
7) No community involvement before the School Board Vote. The memo states (on circled page 15) "The addition would provide a new building elevation to the neighborhood. For all school design projects that MCPS conducts, if the feasibility study is approved, the adjacent neighbors and neighborhood associations would be invited to participate in the feasibility study and subsequent schematic design process to share their concerns and input into the design of the project." Involving the community after the fact, is the equivalent of asking forgiveness rather than permission. That is too little too late for the community.
"Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed" (Declaration of Independence). Despite efforts by the BOE to paint another picture, the public is almost uniformly opposed to this plan. In this case, there is no way that it should go forward.
I implore you to push for facts and not the fiction included in that memo. The residents in and around Aspen Hill are vehemently opposed to this plan and you owe it to us to be as thorough as possible when making your decision.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
-David K. Rowden