Superintendent Focuses on Growing Enrollment, Infrastructure Needs in Capital Improvements Program Amendments

October 31, 2012
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Joshua P. Starr is requesting minor adjustments to the district’s Capital Improvements Program (CIP) in order to prepare for future growth and extend the lifespan of existing buildings.

Dr. Starr submitted his CIP amendments to the Board of Education on Wednesday (October 31) and is requesting that $14.2 million in projects be added to the approved $1.35 billion CIP for Fiscal Years 2013-2018. The funds would be used mostly for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) replacement ($11.5 million) and upgrades to important building assets, such as fire alarms and public address systems; water and sewer systems; floors, ceilings, windows, and doors ($2.5 million).

In addition, Dr. Starr is seeking $220,000 for facility planning for school additions and is recommending a comprehensive capacity study of elementary schools in the Downcounty Consortium. Other recommendations include a boundary study for a new Clarksburg elementary school and a roundtable discussion group to look into the possibility of “unpairing” New Hampshire Estates and Oak View elementary schools.

“The Montgomery County Board of Education and the County Council have continued to show strong support for meeting the growing facility needs of MCPS,” Dr. Starr said. “I am only seeking small changes to the current CIP that will allow us to keep up with the maintenance and infrastructure needs of our buildings and plan for the continued growth of our school system.”

Every two years, the county approves a six-year Capital Improvements Program, which includes school construction and infrastructure projects. In off years, such as FY 2014, only amendments to the adopted CIP are considered.

The Board will hold a work session on Thursday, November 8, to discuss Dr. Starr’s CIP amendments and other recommendations. The Board will hold public hearings on Monday, November 12 and Thursday, November 15 on the CIP amendments. Both hearings will begin at 7 p.m. and will be held at the Carver Educational Services Center, 850 Hungerford Drive in Rockville. The Board will approve a CIP amendment request on Monday, November 19. The request will then be submitted to the County Executive and the County Council for consideration. For more information on the hearings and to sign up to speak, visit the
Board of Education website.

Preliminary enrollment for this school year is just over 149,000 students, an increase of 11,000 students since 2007. By 2018, enrollment is expected to be near 160,000 students. Much of this growth is taking place in elementary grades, as evidenced by the fact that nearly 90 percent of the 385 portable classrooms in MCPS are located at elementary schools.

In order to address this growth, the 2013-2018 CIP includes planning and construction funds for six new elementary school addition projects, a middle school addition, as well as funding for a new elementary school and middle school. It also maintains the completion dates of elementary school modernization projects, but delays most middle and high school projects for two years. Dr. Starr’s amendments do not change this schedule.

HVAC and Infrastructure Improvements

The funds for HVAC and Planned Life-cycle Asset Replacement (PLAR)—alarm systems, roofs, doors, windows, etc—are needed to help maintain the aging buildings and infrastructure in MCPS. This is especially important at schools where modernization projects have been delayed.

Dr. Starr’s amendment will only begin to address the growing need to replace HVAC systems that are well beyond their expected service life. In order to eliminate the backlog, MCPS would need to spend about $28 million per year for each of the next 10 years. The PLAR funds would be used to address other aging building components that are critical to keeping our school buildings safe and structurally sound.

“We have placed a strong priority on increasing capacity in MCPS over the past several years, which certainly makes sense,” Dr. Starr said. “However, we cannot ignore the infrastructure needs of our buildings, especially if we are going to be using many of our facilities for a longer period of time.”

Downcounty Consortium Elementary School Study

Dr. Starr is proposing a capacity study for 12 of the 25 elementary schools in the Downcounty Consortium.

“The communities in the Downcounty Consortium are among the fastest growing in Montgomery County and many of the schools are already at or above capacity,” said Dr. Starr. “I look forward to working with the community to explore all possible options to relieve crowding in an efficient and economical way.”

The 12 elementary schools being studied are Arcola, Brookhaven, Forest Knolls, Georgian Forest, Glenallan, Glen Haven, Harmony Hills, Highland, Kemp Mill, Sargent Shriver, Weller Road and Wheaton Woods. Projected space shortages are expected to be most severe at four of these schools—Arcola, Forest Knolls, Harmony Hills, and Sargent Shriver. Three other schools—Glen Haven, Highland, and Kemp Mill—are expected to have less severe space shortages.
The study would start in January 2013 and would assess different options for addressing space shortages, including—but not limited to—classroom additions at seven of the 12 schools; boundary changes; and new school construction.

Community input would be an important part of the process and would include:

- A community-wide meeting to discuss the scope of the project and the process for providing input;
- Two community meetings at each of the seven schools being considered for additions;
- A second community-wide meeting to present all options and gather feedback from the public.

Once the study is complete, it will be used to determine what—if any—projects should be included in the CIP for FY 2015-2020.

Read Dr. Starr’s Memo to the Board on the DCC Capacity Study

New Hampshire Estates and Oak View Elementary Schools

Currently, Oak View (grades K-2) and New Hampshire Estates (grades 3-5) elementary schools draw students from the same attendance zone. In recent years, there has been discussion about “unpairing” the two schools and creating two K-5 schools with separate attendance zones. This issue came up frequently during Dr. Starr’s “Listen and Learn” events during the 2011-2012 school year.

Dr. Starr is proposing a roundtable discussion group that, in the spring, would review the impact of unpairing the two schools. The group would include representatives from the Parent Teacher Associations (PTA) at both schools and will make a recommendation to Dr. Starr and the Board.

Clarksburg Elementary School Boundary Study

Dr. Starr is also proposing a boundary study to determine the service area for a new elementary school in the Clarksburg Village area. The new school will open in August 2014 and will help address crowding at Cedar Grove and Little Bennett elementary schools. Representatives from those two schools will participate in the boundary study discussions.

The boundary study will be conducted in the spring of 2013 with Board of Education action expected in November 2013.

FY 2013-2018 CIP with Amendments

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