ANNAPOLIS – A state board Wednesday voted to lease four former Montgomery County schools and sell another to private organizations.
The unanimous approval by the Board of Public Works would allow the buildings to be put to productive use, said Jerry Pasternak, special assistant to Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan. Two of the five buildings are now empty, he said.
The agreements would allow them to be renovated and maintained without expense to the county, Pasternak said.
The schools approved for lease include the former Belt Junior High School in Wheaton; and the former Lone Oak Elementary, Randolph Junior High and Robert Peary Senior High schools in Rockville.
Kensington’s former Larchmont Elementary School would be sold for about $2 million to its 15-year tenant, Maryland Grace Episcopal Church, said Rey Junquera, a leasing manager for Montgomery County.
Lone Oak and Randolph also have private tenants now; but Lone Oak will be leased to a different group than the one now occupying it. Randolph’s lease will be renewed with the Greater Washington Jewish Community Foundation, but for use as a Jewish day school, instead of multiple uses.
Peary and Belt are now vacant and must be renovated before they can be occupied, officials said.
The approvals did not come Wednesday without public protest.
Representatives from two citizen’s groups criticized the actions on the Belt and Randolph schools because they said there was a lack of community input into the deals.
“They refuse to let us be heard,” said Frank Vrataric, treasurer of the Connecticut Avenue Greenwood Knolls Citizens Association. Vrataric appealed to the board to delay a vote until a citizen’s lawsuit against the county can be settled.
The suit, pending in Montgomery County Circuit Court, alleges the county has not determined the Belt school is no longer needed. This is the second time citizens have sued the county over the school’s fate.
A 17-year lease, if signed, would turn Belt over to Yeshiva High School of Greater Washington. The lease would include an option to buy for $1.75 million, Junquera said.
Richard Zierdt, treasurer for The Randolph Civic Association Inc., protested the sale of public properties to private groups. And he said the terms of the lease for the former Randolph school were made without community input. -30-