The Montgomery County Board of Education Capital Budget Hearings on November 12 and 13 flaunted complaints of overcrowding and outdated HVAC systems.
The first testimony came from Jud Ashman, the four-day veteran mayor of Gaithersburg. Ashman, a former PTA president, criticized the five year delay of Summit Hall Elementary’s expansion. The overcrowding has forced classes to be held “in hallways or other areas that can safely accommodate tables and chairs” and the population is only increasing. Ashman also lamented that Rachel Carson Elementary had 11 portables – not an ideal situation.
These concerns of overcrowding were the subject of every testimony, setting the tone of the hearing as a call for more funding and new buildings.
The class president of Seneca Valley High School, Sammi Mullah gave a personal account. He recollected hearing about Seneca Valley as an eighth grader that “the students weren’t on level but under level… that Seneca Valley was a school where the water could make you sick for a week.” Mullah praised the students and the teachers, but pointed out that they were being held back by their outdated building.
A student at Wootton High School presented pictures of narrow staircases, corroding pipes, and leaking ceilings. She showed testimonies of students, including one who said that “there is no difference between the temperature outside and inside.”
Frances Frost, the president of the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations (MCCPTA) asked the parents in the room to “raise your hand if you moved to Montgomery County because of the great school system. ”The many hands that rose would not have been expected solely from the complaints being given. But Frost continued, saying that despite the great system, many schools were not up to par. She took a different angle from the other speakers, pointing out that many students graduate by the time these expansions are complete, and that we need to ensure that students “will have a place to sit, the doors will be securely locked, and they will have time to digest their lunch.”
Leslie Jacobs gave a complementary testimony, contrasting the national recognition of many Montgomery County schools with the reality of conditions in other buildings. “What is important is not the blue ribbon but the individual education received by our children.”
In a school system that is so well acclaimed for a segment of its schools, others need a lot more attention.
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Yaëlle Goldschlag