Neighbors of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, where a $32 million construction project has been ongoing for three years, are losing patience with the school system.
In mid-2016, crews broke ground on a 34-classroom addition to the high school fronting East West Highway, nearly doubling enrollment capacity, and are renovating playing fields.
While the addition opened in August, work isn’t expected to be complete on the fields until May, about a year behind schedule, neighbors say.
A school system spokesman did not answer when asked for specifics about the timeline for the project.
The project includes raising six tennis existing courts 20 feet above ground for more student parking spaces underneath and a total renovation of the school’s football field and track. The field is being used as a staging area for contractors and construction materials.
The delay isn’t what has neighbors on Sleaford and Chelton roads concerned. Rather, it’s the dirt and debris blowing against their homes and in their windows due to a lack of protection between the construction site and their homes, creating a “wind tunnel.”
Most of the trees that separated the athletic fields from neighboring properties were removed and aren’t expected to be replanted, according to project plans.
Pat Barnhart, who has lived in his home on the corner of Lynbrook Drive and Chelton Road for 32 years, said along with dirt caking the facade of his home facing the fields, he has had to replace shingles on his roof and garage twice since wind is no longer buffered by trees.
“The main thing is our houses are filthy because of all the dirt,” Barnhart said. “There’s no point even cleaning our windows because they’ll be disgusting again in a day and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
The blowing dirt and debris, which he said should be blocked by fencing or covered until construction is done, has caused mold to form on his windowsills and repeated attempts to remediate the issue with school system officials have been “blown off,” he said.
“The impact of what’s happened in the neighborhood is just ridiculous,” Barnhart said. “We love B-CC, but they just do not act like a good neighbor. It’s crazy what we’ve gone through.”
A school system spokesman said “it has been a windy rainy season,” which has caused much of the disruption near the 2,100-student school.
“We have heard that complaint on wind advisory days alleging that the building created a wind vortex for some neighbors,” said Derek Turner, the spokesperson. “We can’t speak to the accuracy of that assessment, but we are working with a landscape architect to think about concepts that may mitigate any potential impact the building may have.”
Rainy weather has delayed several school system building projects, chief operating officer Andrew Zuckerman said at a recent meeting.
He said it’s not “out of the norm” for construction projects around the region to be delayed due to weather, and board vice president Pat O’Neill concurred.
“One can’t control Mother Nature,” O’Neill said.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org