Published on: Sunday, January 1, 2017 Takoma Park Newsletter

Feasibility study begins at Piney Branch Elementary School

By Apryl Motley

With the Montgomery County Board of Education’s appointment of the architectural firm of SmolenEmr-Ilkovitch Architects Inc. on Nov. 15, 2016, the feasibility study at Piney Branch Elementary School officially got under way. The primary focus of the study is to determine the feasibility for a classroom addition to alleviate overcrowding at the school and address the projected need for even more space in the future.

Architects have started the due diligence phase of the study, which, according to Seth Adams, director of the division of construction for Montgomery County Public Schools, “focuses on looking at the building as a whole in terms of both civil and structural engineering.”

Adams stressed that this is not a decision-making process. “Part of due diligence is understanding what’s there,” he said. “This is a data collection and fact-finding process to look at the feasibility of all options, including maintaining or not maintaining the pool. Information will be collected about the pros and cons of each option.”

From the City’s perspective, “the ideal outcome is that the needed classroom space is added, but not necessarily to the detriment of the existing pool,” noted Deputy City Manager Jason Damweber. “Acknowledging the need for classroom space is paramount. If something has to happen with the pool at PBES, then we hope our partners — namely at the County, the school system, Washington Adventist Hospital, Montgomery College — step up and help advocate for and/or finance construction of a new pool/ aquatics center locally.”

Once the due diligence phase is complete, the community feedback process will begin giving City leadership and residents the opportunity to share their concerns. “The community will have multiple opportunities for feedback,” Adams said. The first of four meetings will be scheduled for the end of this month or the beginning of February.

“At the first meeting, what we’re trying to accomplish is showing some initial concepts [for a classroom addition] and getting feedback about the community’s priorities,” he explained. “Then, the second meeting is typically scheduled two weeks after the first giving us time to revise the concepts based on the community’s feedback.”

In terms of the overall timeline for the study, the goal is finalize the report in the spring. With that report in hand, the superintendent will make a recommendation to the board of education, and should they act on that recommendation, the Montgomery County Council will make the final decision about whether to move forward with a classroom addition at Piney Branch. “The feasibility study does not mean there will be a project at Piney Branch,” Adams said. “It will be determined whether this is a priority from a capital project perspective.”

The first meeting to solicit community feedback will be advertised via cards sent to parents via mail and also sent home with students. This information will also be posted on the construction division’s website when it becomes available: www. facilities/construction/index.aspx.

This article appeared in the January 2017 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.