MCPS students lack space for graduation ceremonies

graduation capsMontgomery County Public School seniors will graduate in outdoor venues again this school year as plans for the Shady Grove Arena continue to be on hold.

Approximately 10,000 students graduate from the 25 MCPS high schools each year, said Montgomery County Board of Education Vice President Pat O’Neill, but there is not a venue that can accommodate them.

“Parents complain year in and year out,” O’Neill said. “We would love to have a space for students and all their guests, but there are not many options right now.”

Graduates and their guests can travel up to 30 miles to graduate in outdoor venues such as the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.

The logistical problem is not a new one. O’Neill graduated from Walter Johnson High School in 1968 and had to travel to the University of Maryland’s Cole Field House for the ceremony.

According to a representative from Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development has indicated that they may be interested in a plot of land on the west side of the Shady Grove Metro Station in Rockville, which is currently a parking lot. They have not yet made a formal proposal.

The project’s next steps are in the county’s hands, but it has not been present on agendas since a public comment at a BOE meeting in August 2010.

“There’s nothing new to report,” said Tina Benjamin, chief of the Special Projects Division of the county Department of Economic Development.

According to a study conducted on the project in 2007 by the Maryland Stadium Authority in conjunction with the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development, “the lack of this type of amenity in Montgomery County has come to represent a major deficit in what is otherwise an amenity-rich environment.” The study notes “substantial positive economic and financial impacts in Montgomery County in addition to augmenting quality of life.”

The county began negotiations with developers Tom Doyle and Bill Askinazi of D&A Sports and Entertainment Group in late 2007. They were not available for comment.

Below is a map of Montgomery County high schools and graduation venues.

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