How Many More Can Fit Into Potomac Elementary?

How Many More Can Fit Into Potomac Elementary?

Potomac Elementary is bursting, and the county doesn’t have the money to do much about it.

The school’s plight came up at last week’s West Montgomery County Citizens Association meeting, held at Potomac Elementary.

The school is overenrolled — according to the Montgomery County Public School’s website there are 604 students in a school designed for 488.

Neither a modernization nor an addition are coming anytime soon, said County Council President Mike Subin, speaking to members of West Montgomery last Wednesday. More likely relief will come in the form of a boundary change, sending some of Potomac Elementary’s students to Seven Locks Elementary, which is slightly underenrolled and scheduled to receive an addition.

In addition, several new developments discussed at the meeting will bring more than 100 new homes — and 100 new families — into the Potomac Elementary school district. See sidebar.

Another change may send even more kids to the school. According to Sandy Bonner, President of the Potomac PTA, the school board is considering allowing students from outside Potomac into the school’s Chinese Immersion program -- creating something like a magnet program. “Potomac would fill the slots first, then there would be a lottery for the other openings,” Bonner said.

While trailers provide adequate classrooms space, the school’s common areas cannot deal with the current number of students, in particular the library, gym and cafeteria, said Potomac parent Diana Conway.

“You have the younger kids starting lunch at 11:15 so the older ones can eat before they go home,” Conway said. She also noted the school’s library, where the meeting was taking place, as too small to serve the number of students in the school.

The situation is not dire, said Potomac Elementary’s acting principal, Linda Goldberg.

“It’s really not a big problem. The teachers sign up for library time, just like in any other school,” said Goldberg.

“The council’s policy has been, before you build new, you need to look at a non-capital solution,” said County Council President Michael Subin (D-at large). Non-capital solutions are those that do not involve spending on new facilities.

Subin’s suggestion to adjust the boundaries is not imminent, since no boundary committee has yet been formed.

“That’s not going to be an issue for at least two years,” Subin said. According to the county website, Seven Locks has an enrollment of 254 in a school intended to support 294. However, it is scheduled for a major renovation, which will allow it to accommodate about 200 more children in 2006.

“The real issue for us is who is going to move,” said Bonner. “Our goal is not to have neighborhoods split apart.” Bonner says that Potomac’s parents must play a part in the boundary process in order to ensure that neighborhoods can maintain their cohesiveness.

An additional concern of Bonner’s is the facility itself.

“What will the building look like?” Bonner said. She fears that Seven Locks will have portable classrooms attached to it in the same way that Potomac does. “It’s kind of silly to move those kids to a similar situation in Seven Locks,” Bonner said.

Potomac is currently on a list of schools to be modernized, but the county’s financial crunch has slowed movement on the list. “There’s just no chance we’ll be able to do it,“ Subin said.

While not exactly the best situation imaginable, the school is coping by using “portables,” trailers which act as classrooms. “We’re able to handle the children,” said Goldberg.