History of the Building
Piney Branch opened in 1971 as a Magnet Middle School. It was not possible to achieve balanced integration within the boundaries of Silver Spring ES and Takoma Park ES, so they became primary grade feeder schools paired with PBES.
The standard grades in 1971 were 1-6 in Elementary and 7-8 in Junior High.
We were one of only a couple schools to use the Middle School concept of 3 grades and we opened with Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh graders.
ALSO, we had to build UP and not OUT. Most schools have 2 floors and spread out. The playground of Piney Branch is owned by MD Park & Planning, separately from the land on which the school sits, so we were built split-level to fit the small parcel.
Our school was designed to provide Public Health services to the area. The ESOL room was a doctor’s waiting room, and the other small offices were for people to get Nursing and Dental checkups and shots.
PBES was built with “Open Space” classrooms, designed for a group of 4 teachers to work together in one large area. Being together in one classroom allowed teachers to pull small groups to corners and concentrate. While some kids spent 90 minutes on a Writing project, kids in another corner could do Math, Spelling, Social Studies, etc for less time.
This is not so different from the team specialization we have now, only students did not move from room to room, and time spent on lesson varied with the topic. Open Space called for very careful pre-planning among the 4 teachers every day. This is why almost all schools in the country have abandoned it.
All these factors meant that Piney Branch won prizes for Architectural Design when it opened.
Three major refurbishments have taken place over the last 40 years. The first closed in the Open Space areas into 4 normal classrooms and added walls to the Media Center. The second entailed redesigning the heating/AC system since we were no longer Open Space plus many other adjustments.
The third refurbishment addressed livability issues. Windows were cut into all the rooms so that people did not feel so closed off. The ceilings on 3rd floor Level C were lowered, and color accents painted so that the hallway was more welcoming. The Bus & Car Drop-Off area in front was reorganized for safety and promptness.
Internet wiring was first installed into the Library Media Center & Computer room in 1985. Full computers were put into the school in 2001, 2006, and 2010.