Superintendent Proposes New and Expanded Schools

October 29, 2003
A six-year plan to improve the quality and availability of public school facilities and classrooms in Montgomery County by building or reopening 10 new schools, constructing additions to 21 more schools, and accelerating the modernization of another 18 schools was recommended today [Wednesday, October 29] to the Board of Education by Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools.

The plan—featuring dozens of projects affecting tens of thousands of students throughout the county—would respond to a growing enrollment, cut the backlog of long-delayed projects, and significantly reduce the number of relocatable classrooms from 689 this year to 309 at the plan’s completion. Restrooms would be refurbished in 50 schools, and gymnasiums constructed at 33 elementary schools. Many other, smaller systemic and core facility upgrades would be made, expanding the impact of the improvements throughout the county.

The Richard Montgomery High School project would be moved up one year, all other high school projects up two years, and all elementary projects up one year, beginning with College Gardens Elementary School. In addition, six other schools would receive core improvements to areas such as cafeterias, media centers, and health rooms. Many more systemic projects would replace roofs, upgrade heating and air conditioning systems, improve indoor air quality, and address safety and security needs.

The proposals, if approved by the Board of Education and the County Council, would increase the FY 2005 Capital Budget by $71.1 million to $204.4 million. The six-year Capital Improvements Program (CIP) would increase by $319.1 million to $956.2 million.

“The pace of building new classrooms and modernizing existing facilities must be accelerated if we are to maintain our commitment to provide our students and staff with a learning environment that supports a high-quality education for all of our students,” said Dr. Weast in his recommendations to the Board.

“Schools are extremely overcrowded,” Dr. Weast said, noting that more than 17,000 students attend classes in relocatable facilities, representing 12 percent of the overall enrollment of nearly 140,000 students. Just since 1999, the school system has gained nearly 12,000 students. By 2009, the system enrollment is projected to be 145,622 students.

He cited the gymnasium project as an example of the kind of change necessary so that “all elementary schools finally have an appropriate indoor facility for physical education, recreation, and other programs for the community.”

The recommendations are in addition to the earlier proposal to expand full-day kindergarten to all elementary schools by 2007, in compliance with the Maryland Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act. Other recommendations include a review of modernization versus renovation costs, a six-year plan for Career Technology Education, an articulation plan for East Silver Spring, Takoma Park, and Piney Branch elementary schools, and improving the Mark Twain program.

Availability of Funding

Dr. Weast said the “magnitude and scope of these recommendations” are within reach of Montgomery County. The funding recommendations are built on a combination of revenue sources that include an increased Spending Affordability Guideline (SAG) for county bonds, an impact tax on new residential units, dedication of the increase in the recordation tax, and securing a reasonable amount of state aid.

He said the County Council already has taken “significant action.” On September 30, 2003, the County Council set the capital budget SAG at $190 million per year for FY 2005 and FY 2006 and $1.14 billion for the six-year total. The new six-year total increases the amount of bond funding available for all county agencies for the FY 2005–2010 CIP by $245 million over the previous six-year period.

At the same time, the Council has amended legislation to dedicate the increase in the Recordation Tax adopted in 2002 to the MCPS capital budget and the Montgomery College technology needs. The Council is considering legislation to establish a School Impact Tax on new residential housing to be dedicated to funding school capacity projects.
The total state aid request for FY 2005 is $59.9 million. There are two components to this request. First, $17.9 million is the minimum level the state is obligated to support under current provisions. Second, there are projects amounting to $42 million that have not yet been approved for planning by the state.

Summary of Recommendations

The recommendations for new and existing projects include the following:

* Opening five new schools (one high school, one middle school, and three elementary schools).

* Reopening five schools (one high school, one middle school, and three elementary schools).

* Building additions to 21 elementary, middle, and high schools.

* Accelerating modernizations by one year for Richard Montgomery High School, two years for all future high schools, and one year for elementary schools, beginning with College Gardens Elementary School.

* Planning and constructing 33 elementary school gymnasiums for all existing, new, and reopened elementary schools currently without such facilities.

* Refurbishing restrooms in 50 schools.

* Providing core improvements at three high schools, two middle schools, and one elementary school.

* Implementing systemic projects, such as Planned Life-cycle Asset Replacement (PLAR); roof replacement; heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC); indoor air quality; improved safe access; and security improvements.

Board of Education and County Council Review

The Board of Education is scheduled to hold a work session on November 5, 2003, to discuss the FY 2005–2010 CIP and the recommendation for implementing full-day kindergarten.

Public hearings on the Recommended FY 2005 Capital Budget and FY 2005–2010 CIP are scheduled on November 12 and 13, 2003, and the Board of Education will take final action on these items on November 20, 2003.

The County Council will schedule a work/action session in early December to discuss the portion of the FY 2005 Capital Budget request that relates to state funding. Any changes adopted by the County Council for projects involving state funding must be submitted to the Interagency Committee for Public School Construction by December 7, 2003.

In the spring of 2004, the County Council will evaluate the Board of Education’s Requested FY 2005 Capital Budget and FY 2005–2010 CIP along with requests from all county agencies. The county executive will publish his recommendations by mid-January for County Council discussion and action. The County Council will hold a hearing in early February 2004, work sessions in March and April 2004, and adopt the FY 2005 Capital Budget and FY 2005–2010 CIP in late May 2004.

Detailed information about the recommended capital budget and CIP is available on the web at the link below:

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