Just a little over a year before breaking ground for the DuFief Elementary expansion, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) officials are continuing with the planning stage.
The $38-million project, included in the Board of Education’s (BOE) Capital Improvements Plan 2019-2024, features additional classrooms as well as existing space reconfiguration and upgrades to building systems.
The expansion is needed to relieve overcapacity at Rachel Carson Elementary School. The current capacity for the school is 691 students but MCPS numbers for the 2017-2018 school year showed enrollment at 1,022. DuFief Elementary had 313 students enrolled in the 2017-2018 school year with a capacity for 414 students.
Seth Adams, MCPS Department of Facilities Management director, noted expansion at Rachel Carson was not a possibility. “As the board and as MCPS starts to look beyond individual school boundaries, this is certainly one of those opportunities where you have an adjacent school (Rachel Carson) that has a need,” he said. “You have a school like DuFief that is a smaller school and does have a smaller school enrollment and if you can solve multiple issues with one project that is certainly the goal with this capital project—solve infrastructure at DuFief as well as solve capacity at an adjacent school.”
In mid-October and early November, two architectural schematic designs meetings were hosted that discussed the school’s interior along with pedestrian and traffic flow. “We start out with the first few meetings to get some feedback from neighbors, from teachers, from parents and we start to build the design from that point moving forward,” Adams said. “Essentially this is a community architectural schematic design process. The first couple of meetings have really been walking through the program and starting to show different options for potential layout of the building.”
After taking the responses into account, MCPS plans to host additional community meetings as well as discussions with the PTA and staff in the new year. Adams said the meeting dates had not been set yet but anticipated some time after the holiday season and into January.
The information gathered at these meetings will be taken to the BOE for a preliminary plans’ presentation, so the board has the opportunity to weigh in as well. “We talk about what some of the feedback has been and map out the next steps as well,” Adams said.
With the expansion set to open for the 2022-2023 school year, some Rachel Carson students will be moved to DuFief. A boundary study will be performed within 12 to 18 months of the project’s completion where three different options will be weighed by MCPS over a three-month timeframe to include meetings and public input. The options include the following:
- Rachel Carson students going to DuFief then Lakelands Park Middle School and Quince Orchard High School, and DuFief students going to Robert Frost Middle School and Wootton High School;
- Rachel Carson and DuFief students going to DuFief then Robert Frost and Wootton; or
- Rachel Carson and DuFief students going to DuFief and then going to Lakelands Park Middle School and Quince Orchard High School.
Adams encourages those who may be affected by the expansion to come to meetings. “I think everyone is certainly interested in feedback and how they can weigh in on projects,” he said. “… We will continue to have opportunities for neighbors, parents, surrounding communities to be a part of this discussion of design. This is just the very first part of it. There will be opportunities, and we hope that as many people can and will participate in the conversation and the overall design.”