Local: Education

Controversial Brickyard Road site considered for Potomac Elementary

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Local,Maryland,Education,Rachel Baye,Montgomery County

Montgomery County school officials are eyeing a former Potomac farm, where neighbors beat back a proposal to build soccer fields, as the new home for Potomac Elementary School.

The school system is studying the feasibility of the move to the site on Brickyard Road as part of its plans to renovate the school and add 126 seats, according to a letter sent home to Potomac Elementary School parents. The school now has 496 students, putting it 17 percent above the capacity of its current building on River Road near Falls Road.

"It came up in the conversation of the group that is discussing the modernization of Potomac Elementary ... since they not only wanted to be modernized but expanded, about the possibility of moving to Brickyard," explained Montgomery County Public Schools spokesman Dana Tofig.

The Brickyard Road site -- located between Brent Road and Horseshoe Lane, roughly 2 miles from the school's current home -- has been a subject of dispute for MCPS, which owns the property.

From 1980 until the end of last year, the property was host to Nick's Organic Farm, owned by Nick Maravell, and more recently, to Brickyard Educational Farm, an environmental learning program run by Maravell's daughter, Sophia Maravell.

Last year, Montgomery County government, which was leasing the property from the county school board, ended its sublease to Maravell, planning to build soccer fields there instead. The decision led to a battle in county courts, and 27 state lawmakers who represent the county in the General Assembly weighed in, urging MCPS to allow Sophia Maravell's educational program to use the site.

"The proposed Brickyard Road Educational Farm presents an invaluable and unique opportunity to educate the next generation about agriculture and sustainability," 20 state delegates wrote in their letter. "Perhaps even more important, the Brickyard property represents one of the incredibly few agricultural properties that has remained free from genetically modified seeds and has not been compromised by adjacent farms that utilize [genetically modified organisms]."

While the matter was still before county Circuit Court in late February, County Executive Ike Leggett announced that he had decided against the soccer fields and turned the county's lease over to the Board of Education. He did not offer an explanation at the time.

For now the site remains "a future school site," Tofig said, explaining that this is a designation given to all properties owned by the school system that do not house schools. Other than Potomac Elementary, the school system has not considered other options for the property.

Neither Nick nor Sophia Maravell has applied for a new lease on the property, Sophia Maravell said.

Potomac Elementary Parent Teacher Association President Susan Schwartz declined to comment on the proposal. The school's principal and several members of the modernization committee did not return requests for comment.

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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Rachel Baye

Staff Writer - Education
The Washington Examiner