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After renewed search, Mont. Co picks same site for new middle school

Saturday - 3/31/2012, 1:16pm  ET

rockcreekhillspark.jpg
Rock Creek Hills Park has been selected as the site of a new middle school for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase area for the second time. (WTOP/Max Smith)

Max Smith, wtop.com

KENSINGTON, Md. - Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr is recommending that the new middle school planned for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster be built on what is now Rock Creek Hills Park in Kensington.

Starr's recommendation (PDF) follows that of a 47-member advisory committee, which suggests North Chevy Chase Local Park as a backup option.

The park became the choice during the initial site selection process conducted before Starr took over, but after questions about how that choice was made, the process was redone.

The school system has the right to reclaim Rock Creek Hills Park as part of a contract with the Maryland-National Park and Planning Commission signed when the land was turned into a park after Kensington Junior High School was demolished in 1979.

There are opponents of the choice, including two parks and planning officials who served on the advisory committee, and several people who live near the park who have pushed for the school to be put elsewhere since the process began.

"There are better sites available, and there's time to get it right," Jim Pekar says. He has spearheaded the push to keep the park as-is.

The county Planning Board is set to discuss the recommendation on April 9. The Board of Education is slated to vote on April 17.

Other concerns about the site include how its location relative to the rest of the cluster, could impact diversity.

Starr agrees with a dissenting report from the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School NAACP that diversity is important, but says the school system regularly draws boundaries that take diversity into account. Starr says that can be done with this site too.

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