South Lake Elementary School in Montgomery Village, MD is a warm, welcoming, transformative school that serves 897 students in one of the wealthiest counties in the United States. At South Lake, over 88% of students qualify for free or reduced meals. Over 90% of the students are Black or Latinx. Over 57% of the students are English language learners.
South Lake deserves a building that adequately and safely serves its mission to its students. Join AIM’s campaign for a new building for South Lake Elementary School.
Take a Tour of South Lake
- When schools reopen in Montgomery County, dozens of South Lake students will attend classes in one of 14 portables placed on the property against the recommendation of the fire marshal.
- The building is not ADA compliant.
- The cramped health facilities in the building puts South Lake in violation of Maryland state guidelines.
- An unreliable HVAC system in the building means that students sit in 100-degree classrooms during the summer, and take tests in their coats and gloves during the winter.
Background: How We Got Here
In 2014, South Lake Elementary was on the short list of school construction projects to be funded through the Capital Improvements Plan (CIP). It was not funded; instead, the community was told to wait while the Board of Education (BOE) implemented the newly adopted Key Facility Indicators (KFI) rubric for deciding which schools to prioritize for scarce construction dollars.
The KFI process ran its course, and the evidence was overwhelming that South Lake was the school in the County most in need of renovation. In 2019, on visits to SLES, county council members promised to vote in favor of new construction for South Lake if the BOE put the school on the CIP.
In Fall 2019, the BOE cited South Lake as its number 1 priority for school construction funding. Dr. Smith, MCPS superintendent, instructed his director of construction to publicly announce to the South Lake community that South Lake would be funded through the CIP.
Nevertheless, in May 2020, the County Council passed a CIP that delayed new school construction funds for South Lake. The Council’s deliberations did not consider the evidence-based KFIs. Rather, the desire “not to pit one school against another” was cryptically cited repeatedly by council members in defense of their decision to delay South Lake. True, funds are now even more scarce, but schools that were not on the BOE’s priority list were funded by the Council.
The BOE oversees 206 public schools. The BOE felt so strongly about the Council’s decision to delay South Lake in the CIP that on August 25, 2020, it unanimously voted in support of a supplemental appropriation request to the Council to move South Lake to the original schedule. View the resolution and supplemental appropriation request.
It is now up to members of Montgomery County Council to vote this fall to APPROVE the Board of Education’s supplemental appropriation request. The BOE’s resolution will begin making its way through the Council’s committees in September 2020.
And it’s up to us, the residents of Montgomery County, to put pressure on our public representatives to use their vote wisely and do the right thing.
We feel strongly that the County Council should defer to the elected body of the BOE, which is charged with overseeing and setting priorities for the county’s schools. It has engaged in a rigorous multi-year process to assess the physical and enrollment strains on the South Lake building and determined that the current conditions at South Lake are intolerable.
The fact remains that no elementary school in the county that is majority white has fallen into a state of disrepair anywhere near the condition of South Lake. Those schools were rebuilt well before their enrollment reached the capacity of 14 portables and a paved-over playground. There can be no doubt that South Lake is a product of systemic racism, the very same systemic racism our County Council wanted to overcome through the passage of equity legislation.
- WTOP News: ‘It’s just not right’: Needed repairs at Montgomery County school asked to be sped up — August 26, 2020
- Bethesda Magazine: South Lake Elementary building project accelerated as complaints pile up — August 26, 2020
- LocalDMV.com: MCPS fastracks South Lake improvement project — August 27, 2020
- WTOP News: ‘They don’t care’ — Rodents, crowding, maintenance problems in a Montgomery County school — July 30, 2020
- Washington Jewish Week: Temple Beth Ami advocates for South Lake Elementary — November 25, 2020
Will you #StandUpForSouthLake?
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