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Montgomery County Council committee highlights for Monday, July 10

For Immediate Release: Monday, July 10, 2017

Montgomery Council Committee to
discuss OLO report on opioids
Also on Monday, July 10: Need for lifeguards

at swimming pools at certain times,
Rock Spring Master Plan school capacity issues

ROCKVILLE, Md., July 7, 2017—The Montgomery County Council’s Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, July 10, will address a report from the Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO) on “Prescriber Opioids: Prescriber Education and the Maryland Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.” The report was requested by the Council to keep up to date with the opioid epidemic that is increasing in Maryland and across the nation.

The HHS Committee, which is chaired by Councilmember George Leventhal and includes Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Marc Elrich, will meet in the Third Floor Conference Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. The meeting will be will be televised live by County Cable Montgomery (CCM). The channel can be viewed on Cable Channels 996 (high definition) and 6 (standard definition) on Comcast; Channels 1056 (HD) and 6 (SD) on RCN; and Channel 30 on Verizon. The session also will be available live via streaming through the Council web site at http://tinyurl.com/z9982v8 .

At the worksession on the OLO report, Raymond Crowel, chief of the County’s division on Behavioral Health and Crisis Services, will be available answer questions regarding the opioid problem in Montgomery County.

Opioids are a class of chemically-related drugs that include both legal and illegal drugs. The use of the opioids can relieve pain and cause feelings of euphoria and pleasure, but can also lead to changes in the brain that result in physical dependence on the drugs. As such, all opioids, including prescription opioids, carry significant risks.

In recent years, the abuse of prescription opioids has become a public health epidemic. According to the director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, "Several factors are likely to have contributed to the severity of the current prescription drug abuse problem . . . including the drastic increases in the number of prescriptions written and dispensed and the greater social acceptability for using medications for different purposes."

The OLO report summarizes strategies to combat the prescription opioid problem. It details prescriber education and drug monitoring programs, including best practices and what approaches the State and County are implementing.

The report found that, nationally, about one in 100 individuals experienced a prescription opioid use disorder in 2015. Nearly 19,000 individuals died of drug overdoses involving prescription opioids in 2014.

The HHS Committee also will hold a worksession on proposed Expedited Bill 16-17 that would exempt certain public pools at certain facilities from the requirement to have a lifeguard on duty present when the pool is open for use.

At a June 20 public hearing, the Council heard from individuals and companies supporting and opposing Bill 16-17. Generally, those representing the hotel industry supported the bill while those representing pool management companies and lifeguards opposed the bill.

Councilmember Sidney Katz is the lead sponsor of Bill 16-17. Councilmembers Berliner, Elrich and Nancy Floreen are co-sponsors.

At 2 p.m. in the Seventh Floor Hearing Room, the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee, which is chaired by Councilmember Floreen and includes Councilmembers Leventhal and Hans Riemer, will discuss school capacity related issues to the proposed Rock Spring Master Plan.

The proposed master plan addresses what the Rock Spring Park area of Bethesda should become when it is built out. Measures of public facility adequacy examine whether there can be sufficient school and transportation capacity at buildout to meet the need generated by existing and future development.

The total enrollment forecast at buildout of the WJ Cluster is 5,966 elementary students, 2,878 middle school students and 3,792 high school students. The calculation of existing and currently programmed capacity in the cluster is 4,566 elementary seats, 2,429 middle school seats and 2,335 high school seats.

There are several suggested opportunities to make up the 1,310-seat deficit at the elementary level. The subdivision approval for the “WMAL site” included a dedication of about four acres for a future elementary school. The White Flint plan identifies a small site of 3.86 acres at the south end of the former White Flint Mall property.

In addition, there are four former schools in the cluster that are leased. The former Montrose Elementary school sits on a 7.50-acre site and is leased to the Lourie Center; its current lease terminates in 2030. The former Alta Vista Elementary School is on a 3.53-acre site; it is leased to the Bethesda Country Day School until 2026. The former Ayrlawn Elementary School is on a 4.0-acre site and is leased to the YMCA; the County is negotiating a new lease that would likely run 10 years, so it could be available by 2027. The former Kensington Elementary School sits on 4.54 acres and serves as the offices of the Housing Opportunities Commission; its lease runs month-to-month.

Except for the former Montrose school, each of these sites are at the small end of the range for a new elementary school. The policy of Montgomery County Public Schools is that elementary schools be built with capacities in the 450-to-750-seat range. Assuming that only a 450-seat school could be built at any of the six small sites and a 750-seat school at the Montrose site, there is the ability to create as much as 3,450 more elementary seats in the cluster—about 2½ times the projected seat deficit-without having to acquire property or to require a dedication from a development.

MCPS's policy is that middle schools be constructed in the range of 750-1,200 seats. By 2022-23, both cluster middle schools--North Bethesda and Tilden--will be at the top of the range, and so neither will be expanded. Therefore, the projected middle school seat deficit requires space in about one-third of a large middle school or about one-half of a small middle school.

The former Randolph Junior High is on Hunters Lane, at the east edge of the WJ Cluster. The land is on an 8.07 acres and is owned by MCPS, but the school building is owned by the County. In 1998 the County entered an agreement with the Greater Washington Jewish Community Foundation to lease the building for the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. The lease expires in June 2025; the school has the option of up to three five-year extensions, to 2040. The school is undertaking a strategic planning exercise and are exploring all options, including possibly acquiring the building from the County. However, the County can terminate the lease with five years' notice if the Council also programs a capital project for the site.

If a middle school were to be sited on the 8.07 acres, it would be the smallest middle school site in the County (with a capacity of only 750-800 students).

The former Randolph JHS backs up to the 18.70 acres associated with the Rocking Horse Center, which sits just outside the WJ Cluster and is also owned by MCPS. The Rocking Horse property is used for ESOL, Head Start and administrative offices. It is sufficient size for a middle school, but given that it is in the Wheaton Cluster, the space may be needed to resolve over-capacity issues in the Downcounty Consortium.

The proposed master plan states that there are two middle school sites that are "in the vicinity" of the WJ Cluster: the 20-acre Brickyard site in the Churchill Cluster and the King Farm site in the Gaithersburg Cluster. Neither school is in the vicinity, however: each is about four miles from the nearest edge of the WJ Cluster.

MCPS's policy is that high schools be constructed in the range of 1,600-2,400 seats. Although not yet programmed, MCPS has indicated it wishes to reopen the former Woodward High School on Old Georgetown Road as a high school during the next several years, which would be more than sufficient to address the 1,457-seat deficit, as well as to help mitigate overcrowding in neighboring clusters.

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Release ID: 17-224
Media Contact: Sonya Healy 2407777926