Joan Benz, principal at Winston Churchill High School, points to a former pre-engineering classroom that is under renovation. She hopes it will be an operational science lab this winter.
At a school with some 2,400 students designed for a capacity of 2,000, these types of conversions need to move quickly. There are similar scenarios throughout the school, like a former cafeteria that was converted into a classroom last year.
"We’re way over projection. … Every room is used," Benz said. "We’re trying to use every bit of space we have."
Benz estimates the lab will cost $125,000, less than one-third of which is available funds from the Montgomery County Public Schools capital budget. Instead, Churchill will look to the Winston Churchill High School Educational Foundation, a nonprofit organization formed in 2002, to help cover the cost.
"It’s very easy for people to assume … there’s plenty of money to go around," said Rob McCann, board chair for the Foundation. However, the general affluence of Potomac doesn’t mean that Churchill, funded by the county schools budget, can meet all its needs and goals.
"[MCPS] also has a lot of activities, programs and capital needs to fund. … They obviously have to set priorities," McCann said. "It doesn’t mean that every single school has all it needs."
The Foundation has already sponsored continuing education costs for Churchill teachers who sought certification to teach Advanced Placement courses. It also covered costs to bring after-school tutors to help students in core subject areas.
"It’s a partnership … with MCPS. I think it brings the community together," Benz said. "It shows that we’re a partnership that is advocating for our kids."
SINCE ITS FORMATION, the Foundation has increased its outreach efforts with each year. The 2004-05 academic year was the Foundation’s first year of major fundraising efforts.
The board now includes several Churchill students, including Christina Hitz. "I’ve always been kind of interested in helping the school," she said. "I just got excited once I got on the board. … The group has really included me … and helped me to support my own ideas."
The Foundation’s first major fundraising event is a performance by the Capitol Steps, a political satire troupe, in Churchill’s Bish Auditorium. The cost of bringing the Capitol Steps to school has been underwritten, said Benz, and all ticket sales will go to the Foundation.
"Not only are they a talented group, but it’s for a good cause, too," Hitz said.
The Foundation has many of the school’s immediate needs in sight, but it aims beyond Churchill’s grounds. "It benefits the whole cluster; it’s not just for Churchill High School," Benz said. Foundation assets helped support summer reading and math programs at Bells Mill, Seven Locks and Potomac elementary schools.
The four-year-old Winston Churchill High School Educational Foundation is a non-profit organization that aims to help support Churchill’s resource needs and further educational opportunities for Potomac students. The Foundation seeks volunteers to serve on committees and assist in fundraising. Anybody interested in helping with the Foundation’s work; or anybody with questions, comments or suggestions is encouraged to contact the Foundation by writing to Winston Churchill High School Educational Foundation, Inc., 11300 Gainsborough Road, Potomac, MD 20854; or by e-mail at email@example.com.