More Classrooms, New Schools, Updated Facilities, and New Programs Highlight Capital Budget for Growing Enrollment

October 28, 1999
A significant expansion in the school classroom space needed to serve an enrollment that will reach more than 140,000 students by 2005, an increase of nearly 9,000 students over this year, highlights the newly proposed capital budget for Fiscal Year 2001 and the six-year Capital improvements program by Superintendent of Schools Jerry D. Weast.

Dr. Weast has proposed to the Board of Education that, at a minimum, the enrollment growth will necessitate adding 202 new classrooms to existing facilities, building three new schools, accelerating the backlog of school modernizations, and initiating the planning to add another 216 classrooms at 15 more schools.

The need for improved pre-school education in the county has prompted Dr. Weast to propose the planning of early childhood centers that would be available for a comprehensive interagency initiative, along with the expansion of space for enhanced kindergarten programs.

Dr. Weast has also recommended expanded use of technology as a literacy tool at the elementary level and the modernization of technology equipment at the high school level. Also proposed is the introduction of distance learning through interactive television in order to share expertise in instructional programs among schools.

The recommendations were submitted for consideration and adoption in the Requested FY 2001 Capital Budget and Capital Improvements Program (CIP) for Fiscal Years 2001 to 2006. This six-year plan includes the Capital Budget request for Fiscal Year 2001 and provides the recommended appropriation authority for funds needed to implement the CIP during the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2000, and ends June 30, 2001.

"My recommended Capital budget request represents what is required to provide the facility needs for students in growing communities, for the modernization of our older facilities, and for new program initiatives to promote student performance," said Dr. Weast in a his request to the Board. The expenditure request totals $143.2 million for FY 2001 and totals $665.9 million for the six-year period.

"The capital improvements are investments in the future of our children, the economic vitality of our local communities, and ultimately the quality of life in Montgomery County," said Dr. Weast. "The request asks for what is needed and is affordable given this county's commitment to education."

Summary of the Recommendations

Enrollment Growth and Facility Needs

The enrollment forecast now indicates continued growth through the year 2005, with total enrollment leveling off above 140,000 students. Enrollments are expected to remain at 2005 levels through 2015. Enrollment growth is occurring throughout the county including new developments in the upcounty area and growth due to resales of existing homes in developed downcounty communities.

Without construction of the recommended additions and new schools, MCPS will face a widening gap between current school capacity and projected enrollment at many schools. This facility gap would widen each year as enrollment grows. By 2005, the sixth year of the CIP period, utilization levels at numerous schools would reach unacceptable levels. The key consequences of not building the recommended additions and new schools will be to have 27 elementary, middle, and high school facilities operating in excess of 120 percent capacity, and to have over 11,000 students in 480 relocatable classrooms system-wide.

Modernization of Facilities

To accommodate a burgeoning student population, MCPS is faced with the challenge of balancing the need to provide new capacity for increased enrollment with the need to modernize older schools in established communities. The CIP includes a modest acceleration of the modernization schedule for elementary and middle schools by the end of the six-year period. Specifically, the plan increases to three elementary schools each year and two middle schools every three years by the end of the six-year period. Without the recommended acceleration of elementary and middle school modernizations, elementary schools would be modernized on a 50 year cycle, and middle schools on a 70-year cycle. No change to the high school modernization schedule, which is currently a 46-year cycle, is recommended at this time.

Early Childhood Programs and Facilities

In support of the adopted Board of Education academic priorities, a new project is included to provide preliminary architectural planning for Early Childhood Centers. These centers would be located in areas of the county where elementary capacity is extremely limited and where schools have the highest educational load. The project also would include funding for 36 relocatable classrooms to offer enhanced Kindergarten programs with reduced staffing ratios of 15:1. Where possible, within building and site limitations, current kindergarten programs would be expanded to all-day programs in high educational load schools. Greater detail about this new initiative will be provided in the educational plan in November and will include parent resource and training, wrap-around day care, and other preschool programs. Since the capital budget must be released prior to our discussions about the educational plan, it is necessary to include the capital budget request to begin the initiative.

Educational Technology: Literacy and Modernization

Educational technology has been augmented with two new components that promote student learning. First, it introduces the "Literacy through Technology" initiative that will support the reading initiative introduced last year. The project will give students additional technology tools and teachers intensive training to utilize educational technologies to strengthen the literacy program. The second component, "Technology Modernization," will support school improvement initially at the high schools by providing a comprehensive and ongoing technology modernization plan. This plan will ensure that the updated technological capabilities essential for teaching and learning continue to be available in classrooms. In addition, a new project has been added to provide distance learning utilizing two-way interactive television. Distance learning will provide individual high schools with a powerful tool for increasing student course options. It also will broaden and enrich staff development and collaboration.

Rising Construction Costs

Construction costs have escalated rapidly in the nonresidential construction market. Nonresidential construction in the Washington area is up 17 percent over the same period last year. This is partially due to the existence of fewer firms in the market after the recessionary shakeout that occurred in the first half of the decade. There also is an increased number of projects being built in the region, especially school projects. Therefore, bids for many projects have substantially exceeded recent cost estimates. This recent bid experience is reflected in the Requested FY 2001-2006 CIP. For example, the requested modernization program for the FY 2001-2006 CIP is approximately $45 million more than the approved FY 1999-2004 CIP.

State Aid

In each of the past two fiscal years, MCPS has received $50 million in state aid through the state of Maryland Public School Construction Program for new and previously funded capital projects. For FY 2001, the County Council has assumed revenue from state aid in the amount of $40 million. For FY 2001 the MCPS State CIP request is approximately $30 million. This is the maximum amount eligible under the current rules, regulations, and procedures governing the state school construction program. This $10 million shortfall in budgeted revenue may have a serious impact on currently approved project schedules unless additional state funds become available or the county covers the shortfall and provides the additional funding necessary to meet the needs identified in the Requested FY 2001-2006 CIP.

Boundary Studies

Included with the Requested FY 2001-2006 CIP are recommendations for three proposed boundary studies. The studies would address overcrowding at Sally K. Ride Elementary School, establish boundaries for the new Northwest Elementary School #6, and reassign the Fallsgrove (Thomas Farm) development from the Thomas S. Wootton cluster to the Richard Montgomery cluster. Also included is a recommendation to conduct a community review to explore program and facility options for Montgomery Blair High School that is projected to grow to more than 3,400 students by September 2005.

Next Steps

The Board of Education will hold a worksession on the Capital budget on November 9, 1999, and will hold public hearings on the Capital Improvements Program on November 10 and 11, 1999. The Board is scheduled to take action on the Requested FY 2001-2006 CIP on November 18, 1999. The County Council will schedule a work/action session in early December to discuss the state portion of the FY 2001 Capital Budget request. Any changes adopted by the Council for projects involving state funding must be submitted by December 7, 1999. The Board-approved CIP will be evaluated with the total county CIP from all agencies. The county executive will publish his recommendations by mid-January 2000 for County Council discussion and action.

See link below for: Requested FY 2001 Requested Budget and FY 2001 to 2006 Capital Improvements Program. (Superintendent's Recommendations) Cluster Planinng Issuses and Recommended Action

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