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Another School Or Affordable Housing?

Residents organize to oppose Kendale School plans.

Rumblings are beginning around Seven Locks Elementary and they’re also starting on Kendale Road. Over 100 residents from both areas met on June 9 to plan strategy to oppose the construction of a new elementary school on Kendale Road.

The Board of Education and the County Council have signed off on a plan to build a school on Kendale Road with a capacity of more than 700 students, and move the students from Seven Locks there, along with some of the students from Potomac Elementary. The board has repeatedly said that it only intends to put 450-550 students at the new school. Seven Locks would then be closed.

"It’s absolutely Orwellian logic," said Jay Weinstein, a Seven Locks parent. "The elementary schools are overcrowded, so let’s close down Seven Locks Elementary school."

Parents and community activists are questioning the logic of statements they have heard from Board officials. One common charge leveled against the process is that there has not been sufficient community involvement.

"The whole thing has proceeded too quickly and too stealthily," said Howard Milchberg, president of the Kendale Coalition, a group of Kendale residents which formed in response to the prospect of a new school.

The Board of Education held a public hearing about the issue in March, and it was also brought up during the County Council’s hearings on the budget.

However, those hearings did not address the size of the school. "We are right to demand public hearings," Milchberg said.

Residents also bring up the familiar issues about the accuracy of population projections. When calculating expected population growth, Board of Education demographers only factor in developments of 10 or more units. In Potomac, many of the new developments are small "infill" developments of four or five houses, or a subdivision which only creates one house.

Eventually, these small numbers add up, they say. "The Board of Education plans have not always been great," said Cyril Draffin, president of the Deerfield-Weathered Oak Homeowners Association, an area near Seven Locks.

Coupled with this is that by implementing all day kindergarten, school capacity will drop since instead of a morning and afternoon class sharing one room, two rooms will now be needed.

Some are calling for the construction of a new school and also leaving Seven Locks open. "We absolutely need another Elementary school site in this cluster," said Janis Sartucci, Churchill PTA Cluster Coordinator.

Sartucci cited enrollment projections out to 2020 and said they show a demand for additional capacity. "By my math, we actually need a school at Kendale, and a school here," Sartucci said.