A motion that was originally voted down by the Frederick County Board of Education was re-introduced and approved in the wee hours of Wednesday night.
Rock Creek School will be built on the same site as Walkersville Middle School, after the board voted 5-2 in support of that site for the new school.
The same motion failed by a 5-2 vote just 20 minutes prior to the board making its final decision, which was the recommendation of FCPS staff and the project's architects.
Board member Mike Bunitsky then made a motion to put Rock Creek at Gov. Thomas Johnson Middle School. But after project architects and staff expressed concerns about the site's extreme limits for athletic space as well as environmental issues — the site would require more than $1 million in dirt alone to grade the property properly — Bunitsky pulled his motion before it came to a vote.
After more debate, board member Ken Kerr, who was on the prevailing side of the original failed motion, re-introduced the staff's recommendation for a vote. It passed 5-2 with April Miller and Brad Young opposing it.
Young opposed the motion because he felt that Rock Creek should be centrally located in the county to increase opportunities for the students there.
Rock Creek serves students ages 3 to 21 with severe disabilities. The new school will be its own free-standing building.
Frederick County Public Schools and the architect designing the new school made a recommendation to put the school on the same grounds as Walkersville Middle School.
On a scoring rubric developed by staff, Walkersville received one more point than the site where Monocacy Middle and Elementary sit. Several Monocacy-area parents offered public comment at the Nov. 29 board meeting against putting the school on the Monocacy campus.
Dave Giles, president of Neighborhood Advisory Council 3, spoke several hours before the vote Wednesday to advocate for putting the new Rock Creek School at “any other location” except for Monocacy Elementary and Middle schools.
Putting Rock Creek on the Monocacy site “would result in a near total loss of much-regarded green space. It’s the only large recreational field for a community for more than a half a dozen of densely populated neighborhoods,” Giles said.
Along with Walkersville, Monocacy and Gov. Thomas Johnson middle schools, staff reviewed Ballenger Creek Middle School, Valley Elementary School, Tuscarora Elementary School and an empty lot along Md. 26 near Dearbought as potential sites.
The Walkersville Middle site has slightly more than 13 acres of buildable area, which is enough space for a school with a state-rated capacity of 120 students, a greenhouse, a walking path and play areas.
There is potential to add an extra access point to the school to allow better circulation of traffic, said Kori Purdum Matheis, senior project architect. It also allows different configurations of fields and parking lots. Gov. Thomas Johnson Middle did not have that flexibility.
"[The Walkersville site] offers a lot of flexibility in terms of where we can put things and how we can design it," Purdum Matheis said.
Board President Brad Young expressed reservations about using Walkersville because of traffic concerns.
“No matter which way you go, it’s going to be a nightmare,” Young said.
Transportation costs would also be higher at Walkersville than at most sites, because the grounds are not as centrally located in the county.
But several residents who spoke against putting Rock Creek on the Monocacy campus also mentioned how congested the traffic already is.
Design for the building is scheduled to start in January, and construction is slated to start in February 2020.