Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School will be almost 600 students over capacity by 2018, but some parents don’t think plans for a large addition is the right way to manage overcrowding.
In an at-times contentious meeting on Tuesday in the school’s cafeteria, a number of parents of students in the B-CC cluster questioned whether adding an addition the size of a small elementary school would work for Montgomery County’s smallest high school campus. Another questioned whether MCPS long-range planners could accurately predict the amount of students who would come from new apartment projects in the area.
Long-range planning division chief Bruce Crispell and B-CC planner Debbie Szyfer brought along architects to present three options for the addition as part of an expansion feasibility study.
But some parents felt other options, including changing school boundaries, should be attempted instead to slow the growth of the school’s population.
“We feel boxed into this corner, like these kids are coming, we’ve gotta do this, we’ve gotta do this quickly,” one parent said. “It’s like if we don’t take this bad option, we get nothing.”
Crispell said MCPS staff looked at changing boundaries to ease overcrowding at B-CC, a tactic he said they try to avoid as it also angers parents. The high schools bordering B-CC are all also either at capacity or going to exceed capacity soon, Crispell said.
The three options for an addition all include a 47,000-square-foot building that would house 33 more teaching stations — a label that includes traditional classrooms, smaller seminar rooms, a dance studio or weight room, an auxiliary gym, science labs and a number of staff offices.
The new building would be built either in the back of the existing school where the football field is, to the west side where the tennis courts are, or, in a more unlikely scenario according to one architect, to the west side in the existing parking lot.
The addition would allow for a total capacity of 2,200 students. The current school population of 1,840 is more than the existing capacity of 1,665, which has left some staff development personnel working out of storage closets, a cramped combination dance studio and wrestling room and a number of other hassles.
Part of the reason for the feasibility study, Crispell said, is the earlier than expected growth of elementary school populations in the B-CC cluster. Since 2007, there has been an almost 700-student increase in the elementary schools that feed B-CC, reflective of a county-wide trend, he said.
MCPS expects the school to grow by about 400 students by 2018, Crispell said.
That didn’t appease some of the roughly 50 parents in attendance, who said the addition would cause parking issues, take away athletic fields and disrupt operations in the existing building during construction on the 16-acre East-West Highway campus.
“Didn’t someone stand here, say 11 years ago, and say, ‘We’re set for the future,’” asked one parent, referring to the school’s modernization in 2001. “Here we are. You guys don’t even have your numbers straight. This thing really angers me. I’m not going to sit here five years from now and hear you guys say, ‘Well, hey we didn’t know,’ and wipe out the rest of this school.”
Crispell and Szyfer told angry parents to take their concerns to the Board of Education. They said the feasibility study does not guarantee the addition will be funded.
There will be two more community meetings on the addition feasibility study — one focused for staff at 3 p.m. on Nov. 8 and another for parents and community members at 7 p.m. on Nov. 28. The PTA presentation of the plan will come on Dec. 11.