Superintendent Recommends Capital Budget to Address Enrollment Growth

October 28, 2011
Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr released his Capital Improvements Program (CIP) recommendation for Fiscal Years 2013-2018 today, with a strong focus on creating space to meet the district’s increasing enrollment.

Dr. Starr’s $1.489 billion recommendation includes new school construction projects, including additions to six elementary schools and one middle school, as well as the construction of three new schools. Dr. Starr’s recommendation also maintains several ongoing projects that were part of previous CIPs, and adds eight elementary schools to the schedule for future modernization.

“Our school district has experienced tremendous growth over the past few years and that growth is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.  By 2017, we expect to add 9,400 more students, placing additional pressure on schools that are, in many cases, already above capacity,” Dr. Starr said. “This CIP recommendation will help us keep pace with our enrollment growth, while continuing to update our aging facilities and maintain our infrastructure.”

Enrollment in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) has risen to more than 146,600 students, an all-time high and an increase of nearly 9,000 students since 2007. By the year 2017, enrollment is expected to be more than 156,000 students. Much of the enrollment growth is taking place in early grades, as evidenced by the fact that 90 percent of the district’s 350 portable classrooms are located at elementary schools.

Dr. Starr’s CIP recommendation represents an increase of $129.7 million over the previously approved six-year plan. It includes $278.8 million in expenditures for FY 2013, an increase of $50 million over the FY 2013 expenditures approved in the previous CIP.

“We are certainly mindful of the economic conditions, but the reality is that we need more classroom space to accommodate our current and future growth,” Dr. Starr said. “Additionally, construction costs are still low, meaning we can get more for the money we invest today.”

The Board of Education will now begin the process of reviewing Dr. Starr’s recommendation. The Board will hold a work session on the CIP on Nov. 2 at 6 p.m. and public hearings will be held on Thursday, Nov. 10, and Monday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m., in the Carver Educational Services Center, 850 Hungerford Drive, in Rockville.

“As the Board carefully reviews Dr. Starr’s recommendation, it is imperative that we hear from our community and we encourage the public to participate in the process,” said Board of Education President Christopher S. Barclay. “As a Board, we understand the difficult fiscal climate the county faces.  At the same time we are all committed to providing enough classroom space for our students to learn and grow, as well as addressing the needs of our aging facilities.”

The Board is expected to take final action on the CIP on Nov. 17 and submit its request to the county executive and the County Council, which will adopt a final CIP for Montgomery County in May 2012.

CIP Priorities

In formulating his recommendation, Dr. Starr and his staff placed projects in one of six categories:

- Compliance with regulations;
- Capital maintenance to ensure MCPS buildings are safe, secure and comfortable;
- Capacity to meet enrollment demands;
- Modernizations that bring older facilities up to current education program standards;
- System infrastructure that allows support facilities to keep up with enrollment increases;
- Technology modernization to fund computers and other technology upgrades.

“All of these areas are important, but our most pressing needs are in the areas of compliance, maintenance and capacity,” Dr. Starr said. “We must make sure every child in our school system has a place to learn that is accessible, secure and supports 21
st century instruction.”

The CIP calls for seven new classroom addition projects at Arcola, Bethesda, Highland View, North Chevy Chase, Rosemary Hills and Wood Acres elementary schools and at Julius West Middle School. The CIP also recommends the construction of a new middle school in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster and new elementary schools in the Northwest and Richard Montgomery clusters.

Dr. Starr also is recommending eight new modernization projects that were selected based on the district’s most recent facilities needs assessment. The nine new modernization projects, due for completion between 2018 and 2021, are for Cold Spring, Dufief, Belmont, Stonegate, Damascus, Twinbrook, Summit Hall and Rosemary Hills elementary schools, as well as a modernization project that would collocate Maryvale Elementary School and the Carl Sandburg Learning Center.

Several other modernization projects approved in previous CIPs remain, but in order to balance the district’s capital needs with funding limitations, Dr. Starr is recommending a one-year delay in six secondary school modernization projects, starting with the modernizations of Farquhar Middle School and Wheaton High School/Thomas Edison School of Technology. The construction of a new middle school in the Clarksburg/Damascus area will also be delayed by one year.

“It is unfortunate that we must delay these projects for a year, but the economic circumstances provide us with few options,” Dr. Starr said. “I am committed to completing the modernizations that have been approved in a timely manner, while balancing our financial realities with the space and facility needs of the entire district.”

Overall, school modernizations and replacements account for 46 percent of the six-year CIP funding and many of these projects will add capacity to facilities that are currently over utilized. Capacity projects account for 24 percent of the CIP and capital maintenance projects account for 16 percent.

Boundary Recommendations

On October 14, Dr. Starr released recommended boundary changes to alleviate elementary school overutilization in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster and to establish the service area for the opening of a new elementary school in the Downcounty Consortium.

The boundary changes for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster, combined with future construction projects, will help alleviate crowding in the elementary schools and avoid the possibility of a residential development moratorium.

In the Downcounty Consortium, new boundaries are being drawn for the anticipated opening of a new elementary school in the McKinney Hills neighborhood in August 2012.


Superintendent’s Recommended FY 2013-2018 Capital Improvements Program

Read Dr. Starr's submittal letter to the Board of Education

Boundary Recommendations

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