Less than three days after the Town of Walkersville Planning Commission approved site improvement plans for Rock Creek School, Frederick County Public Schools broke ground Friday on the new school being built behind Walkersville Middle School. County Executive Jan Gardner, State Delegate Ken Kerr of District 3B, and County Council Member Jessica Fitzwater joined the school system, representatives of the school, students, and alumni of Rock Creek School in the ceremonial groundbreaking. No Town of Walkersville officials report being aware of the groundbreaking ceremony.
The new school will replace Rock Creek’s current school building on Waverly Drive in Frederick. Rock Creek provides special education programs for students with severe intellectual, physical, emotional, hearing, visual and learning disabilities. Students range in age from three to twenty-one years old. The current building has had no significant renovations in over forty years.
The new school will include a Parks and Recreation facility with accessibility for those with special needs.
On Tuesday evening, Planning Commission members continued raising concerns about storm water, traffic, conveyance of water across the property, and the impact on surrounding properties. Commission member David Ennis questioned the flatness of the area, how long water would be standing on the property’s “dry pond”, and mosquito issues.
Mr. Ennis and Town Commissioner Tom Gilbert asked FCPS about using a sump pump to get the water off of the property faster. FCPS’s legal counsel rose to oppose anything that would further delay the project by requiring them to go back to the county for a storm water management review. She pointed out that the county had approved their storm water management plan, and a sump pump would change the storm water management plan. Mr. Ennis responded that he is not asking about storm water management, but conveyance across the property.
Commission member Michael Kuster explained that the school system’s choice of this property caused all of the delays, because the property is not appropriate for this project. “I have the same concerns raise by Mr. Ennis about water issues on this property due to the lack of slope to move water, and how it will impact the neighbors,” Kuster stated. He worries that the “dry pond” that will be wet for an unknown time frame after storms is also going to be the playing field for Walkersville Middle School.
Commissioner Gilbert asked FCPS how they plan to address issues that may arise from standing water, such as mosquitoes. FCPS assured the commission that they would address such issues, because they worry about the health and safety of the students on the property.
Neighbors and the public raised similar concerns. One neighbor worried about the flooding that increasingly happens on his property, and how adding all of this impervious surface would impact his property. Specifically, he wanted to know who would address his problems when his property floods, because the town won’t take ownership of the problem and the school system is saying that the problem is with the town’s infrastructure.
Commission Chair Dick Brady explained that the school system is not permitted to make the situation worse. He asked the design engineers for FCPS to clarify the situation. They all stated that their plans will not make things worse than it is now.
After hearing from the public, FCPS proffered to install a sump pump on the property to address the issues raised about standing water on the field / dry pond. They also agreed to be beholden to address any issues arising from their water management.
Finally, the Planning Commission voted to conditionally approve the site improvement plan. There were still issues to be addressed between engineers for the town and the school system.
The Town of Walkersville also asked FCPS to rename the school Fountain Rock to reflect its new location. That request failed in administrative review by FCPS. The school will retain the name Rock Creek, which it adopted after moving to its current location near Rock Creek in Frederick.
With the groundbreaking ceremony and site improvement plan approval, construction will begin with demolition, relocation of utilities, grading, and storm water management facilities in the coming months.
FCPS plans to open the new Rock Creek School in the fall of 2021.