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Success After Years of Struggle
Monday, June 6, Poolesville High School hosted the Groundbreaking Ceremony in celebration of construction for the new building being underway following years of activism. Speeches led the ceremony, featuring a few of the people who had influence in finally earning a renovation for PHS including: President of Board of Education Brenda Wolff, Interim Superintendent Monifa McKnight, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, Poolesville Town Commissioner Jim Brown, Montgomery County Councilmembers Andrew Friedson, Gabe Albornoz and Will Jawando, Maryland State Senator Nancy King, and President of PHS PTSA David Griffith. Following the speeches was the ceremonious act completed by each of the speakers to shovel up dirt from the school property and toss it aside. Afterwards, the Locals Farm Market down the street from PHS hosted a reception for anyone interested, featuring an array of food and drinks. The speeches included many thanks for the diligence from the community to make this milestone possible, as well as advocacy for more after the high school is renovated. “Our work’s not done,” said Town Commissioner Jim Brown. “We have more things to do. As our county executive said, we have our community center and wellness center that needs to be built. We’re going to work for that investment.” This mentality is not unknown for Fair Access, and has only pushed for the equal resources as other communities outside of Western Montgomery County. However, it is this same technique that forced the Board of Education (BOE) to finally listen to their complaints after years of advocating for a new school. In 2017, the BOE removed PHS from priority schools to renovate from 2019 to 2024, postponing the renovation from the previous 2023 finish date. However, this did not curb Poolesville activists’ spirits, they continued to prevail. Fair Access activists began scheduling meetings with elected officials and candidates to spread awareness to anyone in a position of power, starting with Poolesville Day Breakfasts that invited many of the powerful local politicians. By 2019, PHS had been included in the superintendent’s capital budget recommendations, naming it a “major capital project.” In 2021 the renovation was approved, and quickly followed was the groundbreaking ceremony just a year later as construction ensued. While the activism of Fair Access played a role in the prioritization of PHS’s renovation, COVID also brought attention to certain extreme health hazards. “Returning to school this year full time was a painful reminder that Poolesville’s narrow hallways, cramped classrooms, and wheezing HVAC system, were once just sort of unfortunate quirks, are pretty intolerable at this point,” said PTSA President David Griffith. “…No longer too old, no longer too cramped, no longer too decrepit, the new building will help our students and community glow ever brighter together.”