French International School Eyes Bethesda Office Property As Potential Campus

Rochambeau drops plans to build consolidated campus on Old Georgetown Road


Published:

VIA ROCHAMBEAU'S FACEBOOK PAGE

A French international school based in Bethesda has scrapped a plan to build a new campus along Old Georgetown Road and has turned its attention to an office complex near the intersection of Rockville Pike and Pooks Hill Road.

Rochambeau, an independent private school, currently enrolls about 1,080 students at three locations, and its leaders are looking to consolidate its program.

The initial idea was to assemble a collection of properties from 9300 to 9320 Old Georgetown Road for the project, but the site ended up being too small for the campus Rochambeau administrators had in mind, Christina Rose Busso, the school’s advancement director, said.

Now, Busso said, the school is negotiating with owners of a property at 9650 Rockville Pike, a large office building owned by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

“It holds really amazing potential for us to really be a center for French learning and culture,” Busso said. “We’ve been waiting 30 years for this.”

Before signing on the dotted line, Rochambeau administrators will apply for county approval to make sure they could open a school on the site, Busso said. They’re also contacting nearby neighborhood associations to talk about their plans. The current concept doesn’t involve expanding the existing facility, although the school might have to do some interior remodeling, Busso said.

A preliminary review shows that Rochambeau could fit its elementary-level and preschool students on the Rockville Pike property, with room left over for expanded programming, she said.

Right now, the school has its headquarters and upper grades based in a facility at 9600 Forest Road in Bethesda and its preschool campus at 7108 Bradley Blvd. in Bethesda. Most elementary school students attend classes at a campus at 3200 Woodbine St. in Chevy Chase, a property that Rochambeau rents from the county. Busso said Rochambeau renegotiated the lease within the past year, but the space isn’t ideal for the school.

“It was kind of like shoehorning ourselves in to make it work at that facility,” she said.

She said the school probably will spend the next year seeking county approvals and laying the groundwork for the project. Now that the Old Georgetown Road site is no longer an option, the school will look to resell two small properties it owns at that location, she added.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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