The Montgomery County Board of Education (Board) voted at its Boundaries and Facilities Alternatives work session on November 5, 2015, to consider expanding the interim superintendent of schools’ recommended tri-cluster roundtable—that would include the Gaithersburg, Col. Zadok Magruder, and Thomas S. Wootton clusters—to include the Quince Orchard cluster. In addition, the Board requested that staff provide information concerning the Unity Community in the northeast area of the Gaithersburg cluster. Residents in that area have requested a reassignment from the Gaithersburg cluster to the Sherwood cluster.
Interim superintendent Larry Bowers had recommended that a roundtable discussion group be held to take a broad look at school enrollments, utilization levels, and facility options in the Gaithersburg, Col. Zadok Magruder and Thomas S. Wootton clusters. The tri-cluster roundtable discussion group was one of five recommendations that Mr. Bowers released on October 15, 2015, to address construction and school capacity issues throughout the district.
The Gaithersburg cluster has seen significant growth over the past several years, leading to some elementary schools being over capacity. With new housing planned as part of the Crown development and the Shady Grove Sector Plan, enrollment is expected to grow more in the Gaithersburg cluster, increasing capacity issues at some schools.
Last school year, an elementary school capacity study was conducted in the Gaithersburg cluster to determine whether additions to existing schools or a new school could address current and future capacity issues. However, both approaches create significant challenges in terms of future enrollment, the size of the schools, and the potential reassignment of students.
While elementary school enrollment in the Gaithersburg cluster has increased by 737 students since 2007, elementary school enrollment in the Col. Zadok Magruder cluster has increased by just 104 students and has decreased by 217 students in the Thomas S. Wootton cluster. Half of the elementary schools in the Col. Zadok Magruder and Thomas S. Wootton clusters have student enrollments that are below 450 students.
The roundtable group, which will include representatives of the clusters determined by the Board, will explore approaches to distribute some of the enrollment growth throughout those clusters. Approaches may include redistributing housing from new developments and/or reassigning existing areas, as well as other options that may come up during the process. The approaches developed by the roundtable discussion group would be general in nature and no boundary changes would be considered as part of this process.
The Board of Education may choose to adopt this amended recommendation or adopt the interim superintendent’s original recommendation when it takes final action on the Capital Improvements Program (CIP) request on Monday, November 16. Public hearings on the CIP recommendation will be held on Monday, November 9, and Thursday, November 12. Members of the public wishing to provide input on the CIP can send an email to email@example.com. Once approved, the CIP request will be submitted to the Montgomery County Executive and County Council for consideration.