Six-year plan includes 12 new classroom additions, but delays some projects due to funding shortfall
The Montgomery County Council has approved several school construction projects that will add much-needed space to alleviate overcrowding across Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), but many other projects will be delayed due to a funding shortfall.
On May 22, the County Council approved a $1.53 billion Capital Improvement Programs (CIP) for MCPS that covers Fiscal Years 2015 through 2020. The approved CIP is an increase over the current six-year plan (FY 2013-2018) but is $214 million lower than the Montgomery County Board of Education’s request.
“We appreciate the substantial investment the county is making to help us keep up with our growth and ensure our students attend safe, comfortable schools that support a 21st century education,” said Phil Kauffman, president of the Montgomery County Board of Education. “It is unfortunate that multiple projects will have to be delayed, but I am hopeful that additional revenue will be available in the near future and we can get some of these projects back on schedule.”
The Board of Education had requested a $1.74 billion six-year CIP for Fiscal Years (FY) 2015-2020, which included several new school expansion projects to accommodate the district’s rapid enrollment growth. MCPS enrollment has increased by about 14,000 students over the past six years and is expected to grow by an additional 11,000 students in the next six years.
The Board’s CIP was built on the expectation that the state legislature would provide additional revenue that MCPS could leverage to fund the completion of projects that would alleviate overcrowding and revitalize and expand some of the district’s aging schools. County and MCPS leaders, along with parents and educators, rallied for the additional funding during the legislative session, but it was not approved by the state legislature.
Without the additional state funding, the County Council was able to approve a $1.53 billion CIP—an increase of about $162.5 million over the six-year CIP for FY 2013- 2018. The approved capital budget will allow several projects that are already underway to be completed on time, but will require a delay in other projects, including revitalization/expansion projects, classroom additions, and new schools. However, planning and design of these projects will proceed as if they were not delayed in case additional funds become available and the timeline can be moved up.
“MCPS is growing very fast and that growth is not expected to stop any time soon,” said Superintendent of Schools Joshua P. Starr. “The County has made a significant investment to meet the district’s space needs over the next six years, but more will be required to ease overcrowding across the district. It is my hope that the state, the county, and the Board of Education can work together in the near future to find a solution.”
The approved CIP includes classroom additions at 12 elementary schools, including five in the Downcounty Consortium, which has experienced some of the most dramatic enrollment growth in the district. The Downcounty Consortium expansions are slated for Brookhaven, Glen Haven, Kemp Mill, Sargent Shriver and Highland elementary schools. The seven other new elementary school addition projects are at Ashburton, Lucy V. Barnsley, Burtonsville, Diamond, Kensington-Parkwood, S. Christa McAuliffe, and Judith A. Resnik elementary schools.
Classroom addition projects that were already approved as part of previous CIPs and are scheduled to be completed before 2017 will remain on schedule. However, classroom addition projects originally slated for completion in 2017 and beyond will be delayed by one year.
The CIP will allow several revitalization/expansion projects—formerly called modernizations—to continue on schedule, including Bel Pre Elementary (scheduled for completion in August 2014); Candlewood Elementary and Rock Creek Forest Elementary (January 2015); Wheaton High (December 2015), Farquhar Middle (August 2016), and the Thomas Edison High School of Technology (August 2017).
However, 20 revitalization/expansion projects will be delayed due to funding shortfalls. Secondary school projects will be delayed by one year, beginning with Seneca Valley High School, which is now slated to open in August 2019, and Tilden Middle School, which is now scheduled to open in August 2020. Elementary school revitalization/expansion projects will be delayed by two years, beginning with Brown Station, Wayside, and Wheaton Woods elementary schools, which are now scheduled to be completed in August 2018.
The CIP includes three new schools that will open on schedule, including Wilson Wims Elementary in the Clarksburg cluster, which opens in August 2014. In addition, new middle schools will open as scheduled in the Clarksburg/Damascus clusters (August 2016) and the Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster (August 2017). However, new elementary schools in the Richard Montgomery and Northwest clusters have been delayed by one year and are now scheduled to open in August 2018.