Parents frustrated after school district scraps much-needed repairs at Poolesville High School

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Leaking roofs, crumbling walls and encapsulated asbestos - it is a few of the conditions at Poolesville High School in Montgomery County.

Parents have been fighting for years to get the school the repairs it need. But on Monday, the Montgomery County Public School Board removed the school from its list of future projects - a move that left parents infuriated.

Because it was built in 1953, parents say narrow halls create fire hazards. Students in one classroom have to go through another classroom just to get out. With stairs throughout the building, most of the facility is not ADA compliant. Missing ceiling tile from leaky roofs is a common sight. Then there is the patchwork of electrical fixes and exposed wiring. There are holes in walls, peeling paint and crumbling mortar.

Budget cuts have continued to put a strain on the school district's anticipated projects. Poolesville's renovations have been delayed multiple times. Now, the district has shelved the project entirely.

Among the items receiving higher priority - new schools to relieve overcrowding. Montgomery County's growth has outpaced the district's infrastructure. It has left Poolesville parents at a loss.

"At what point does dealing with overcapacity in other schools completely outweigh infrastructure and a crumbling building?" asked Joy Zucker-Tiemann, who has two children set to attend Poolesville High School in 2024 and 2028. "And you have to ask yourself, if it truly just comes down to numbers and the business, you still have students here who need a place to go to school."

Zucker-Tiemann and her husband are among many families who moved to Poolesville specifically for the school. It is one of the top schools in Maryland and the nation. They want to see elected board members keep their promises.

"Do we have representation and legislators that we can believe when they say something is going to happen, that anywhere in the county - forget Poolesville - that they can just change their mind and things that are dog-eared, promised and assured, go away?" asked Neal Tiemann.

"I have a nine and seven-year-old," added Matt Duncan, who also moved to Poolesville for the high school. "Knowing the school has, you know, asbestos problems - my mother died of lung cancer at 46 years old and never smoked. So the last thing I am going to do is put [my kids] in that kind of environment."

The Montgomery County School Board says the repairs list is 30 years old and the criteria needed to be reevaluated, which is why Poolesville and other schools got put on hold.

"We have had schools that are not on the list where if you walked into the building, you would go, 'Oh my gosh what's wrong here?'" explained Patricia O'Neil with the Montgomery County School Board. "And they hadn't been put into the list because that assessment list was a snapshot. A moment in time that doesn't reflect the needs of the district today."

The list was created in the 1990s and the board says there are more pressing issues today that need to be assessed. O'Neill says the school district has 70,000 work orders, including continued repairs at Poolesville. But parents call those repairs a band-aid, when a tourniquet is needed.

One thing is for certain - with three new developments popping up in the Poolesville area, hundreds of more students will be populating Poolesville High School's halls in the years to come.