Wednesday, November 09, 2005

PTA president reiterates opposition to Kendale project

[Note: The following is the testimony of the PTA President of Seven Locks Elementary School, in which she reiterates the PTA's long-standing opposition to the county's plan to shut down the school and build a replacement at a different site.]

FY07 Capital Budget and FY07-12 Capital Improvement Programs
For Montgomery County Public Schools

November 9, 2005


President Pat O’ Neill and members of the board

My name is Harlivleen Gill, and I am the President of the Seven Locks Elementary School PTA.

In my brief testimony tonight, I would like to once again state the position of our PTA on the building of a replacement school for Seven Locks Elementary School, and the potential surplusing of the school site.

On December 9, 2004, the Seven Locks PTA adopted a resolution on this matter by a more than two-thirds majority. We resolved that our PTA:

• Strongly supports keeping Seven Locks Elementary School open at the current site at the intersection of Seven Locks and Bradley Blvd. We value Seven Locks as our school, our main community center and the only large recreation space within walking distance for most of our families.

• Opposes plans to surplus property where there is an existing school.

• Urgently requests the County Board Of Education and County Council to halt action on a replacement school for Seven Locks and instead proceed with more cost effective, neighborhood friendly options that will expand and / or upgrade Seven Locks Elementary School.

Since the time of that resolution, construction costs have gone up by more than 20 percent. As parents, we expect our School Board to act in the best interests of our children. As voters, we expect our elected representatives to be prudent with scarce public money. As members of a local community, we would like our voices to be heard at least as much as those of the developers. I just cannot understand why —disregarding our views as conscientious parents, educated voters, and concerned citizens — you choose to continue on the path building a replacement Seven Locks School to which both the Seven Locks PTA and the community at large are opposed?

So I am very concerned about the decisions you have made regarding this aspect of the capital improvement plan. But I am equally concerned about the manner in which you have made these decisions. We expect the School Board to be impartial and transparent in its dealings with the community, and I am disappointed that it has been neither.

I am disturbed, but sadly less and less surprised, that this pattern continues with respect to the planned replacement school. Over the past few years community groups have advocated and won approval from the county council for the addition of sidewalks on Seven Locks Road. We now discover that there are no sidewalks planned for the replacement school, and many of the other measures needed for the safety of our children are not being taken. I am attaching a petition signed by dozens of people setting forth the concerns of our PTA.

Let me conclude by summarizing:

• We ask that you keep the school at its current site, and expand/upgrade in any manner or phasing that is fiscally convenient and academically least disruptive.

• We request that you use the savings—which is in millions of dollars—to address higher priority needs at other schools in the Churchill cluster in reducing gross over-utilization of portables and capacity issues than building a mega-school that we don't want.