Board Appoves Full-Day K Plan, Capital Budget

November 21, 2003
The Board of Education last night [Thursday, November 20] unanimously approved a plan to expand full-day kindergarten to all elementary schools in Montgomery County by 2007 and a six-year capital budget plan to open or reopen 10 schools, construct additions to 22 more schools, and accelerate the modernization of another 18 schools.

The Board's action followed significant community comment in support of the initiatives at two public hearings and built on recommendations proposed by Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools. The request now will be forwarded to County Executive Douglas M. Duncan and the County Council for review and funding. Major funding concerns remain regarding recent proposals by state officials to sharply curtail state aid for school construction, providing just $3.8 million and trimming the county's request by $56 million.

The Board's capital budget proposals, if approved and fully funded, would increase the FY 2005 Capital Budget by $72.1 million to $204.7 million. The six-year Capital Improvements Program (CIP) would increase by $319.1 million to $956.2 million.

The expansion of full-day kindergarten would open 17 new programs each year for the next three years, beginning next fall, with the final 14 programs opening in the fall of 2007, in compliance with Maryland's Bridge to Excellence in Public Education Act. In all, 65 new full-day programs would be started at schools throughout the county (including two new planned elementary schools), in addition to three schools set to reopen in the next three years to relieve overcrowding in schools that already offer full-day kindergarten.

The capital budget plan features dozens of projects affecting tens of thousands of students throughout the county. The proposed plan 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 47 schools, and gymnasiums constructed at 33 elementary schools. Many other, smaller systemic and core facility upgrades would be made throughout the county.

In last night's action, the Board approved the acceleration of planning funds for the construction of additions to Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and Pyle Middle School.

Also, the Board approved the initiation of four boundary studies. One study involves attendance areas between Banneker and Briggs Chaney middle schools to be completed next spring. Another study focuses on the opening of Quince Orchard Middle School #2 in 2005 and involves Ridgeview and Kingsview middle schools. The final two studies concern the attendance areas for the reopening of the Connecticut Park facility as an elementary school in 2006 and the Belt facility as a middle school in 2005.

In addition, the modernization project at Richard Montgomery High School 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. 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 Board also approved recommendations that reconfirmed the cost effectiveness of modernizations instead of renovations. In addition, the Board approved a six-year plan for Career Technology Education; an articulation plan for East Silver Spring, Takoma Park, and Piney Branch elementary schools; and the initiation of a study of options to improve the Mark Twain program and facility utilization.

The capital budget expansion is spurred by overcrowding caused by program changes and enrollment growth. More than 17,000 students attend classes in relocatable facilities, representing 12 percent of the overall enrollment of 139,203 students. By 2009, the system enrollment is projected to be 145,622 students.

Availability of Funding

The Board's actions include funding recommendations 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.
Recent recommendations by state officials would severely cut state aid for the county, well below the amount the county is already eligible to receive.

County Council Review

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.

Summary of Board's Recommendations

The Board of Education's request for new and existing projects include the following:

* Expanding full-day kindergarten to all elementary schools.
* Opening or reopening 10 new schools (two high schools, two middle schools, and six elementary schools).
* Building additions to 22 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 47 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.

Details of the full-day kindergarten expansion and capital budget proposals are available on the web at the link below.

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