By Kevin O’Rourke
Montgomery County Public Schools and Roberto Clemente Middle School have begun investigating the possibility of installing a cell phone tower on the grounds of the Germantown middle school.
The Roberto Clement Middle School Parent Teacher Student Association held an information session on the topic of the cell tower installation at its regular monthly meeting at the school last Tuesday night. The meeting included presentations from representatives of Verizon Wireless; a parent from Capt. James Daly Elementary School in Germantown, which has a cell tower on its property; and a representative from United Methodist Church in Germantown, which recently built a bell tower/cell tower on its property.
Tuesday night’s preliminary information session served as a good primer for parents and administrators to begin learning more about the issues, pros, and cons surrounding the installation of a cell tower. It was stressed that this would be first of numerous meetings on the topic, and the school community would have much input in the process. No vote or decision was made at last night’s meeting.
At the meeting, Peter J. Geiling of the MCPS Real Estate Management Team outlined school system’s 17-step process for approving a new cell tower on school property. Tuesday’s meeting was just Step Four. It is now up to the school and members of the PTSA to decide if it is in the schools best interest to further pursue the installation of a cell tower at Roberto Clemente.
If the school and PTSA decide not to move forward at this point the cell tower would not be built. However, if they decide to continue the process, the process will have to go through the general public comment and meeting sessions as any other construction project in county. At that point a full open community meeting would be organized by the school.
There are currently 11 Montgomery County Public Schools with cell towers, all but one are high schools, Capt. James Daly Elementary is the only exception. If approved Roberto Clemente would be the first middle school in the county with a cell tower on the property.
It was explained that revenue generated by the cell tower leases is captured one third by the school where the tower is located. That money can be used at the discretion of the principal for things like offsetting costs of special events at the school or field trips for students. Another third of the revenue is credited to the school cluster and the final third goes into the school system’s general fund.
The school and its PTSA have not yet scheduled the next meeting regarding this topic.