Superintendent Proposes Changes to Long-range Planning Regulation; Recommends Site for New Elementary School in Clarksburg

October 15, 2014
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Joshua P. Starr released on Wednesday (October 15, 2014) proposed changes to the MCPS administrative regulation that guides facility planning. The proposed changes were released in order to receive public input prior to the issuance of the updated regulation by the end of the year. 

Dr. Starr also released a recommendation on a site for a new elementary school in Clarksburg, which will be submitted to the Montgomery County Board of Education as part of the superintendent’s proposed amendments to the current six-year Capital Improvements Program (CIP) for MCPS. The remaining amendments will be sent to the Board on October 28.

The community will have an opportunity to give feedback on the proposed changes to the guidelines for facility planning, the recommendation for the school site in Clarksburg, and other CIP amendments, during public hearings in November.

Clarksburg Cluster Elementary School Site

Since 2007, elementary school enrollment in the Clarksburg cluster has grown by more than 1,500 students and that growth is expected to continue in the years to come. Even with the opening of Wilson Wims Elementary School in Clarksburg this school year, MCPS expects to have large elementary school space deficits by 2020-2021.

A site selection advisory committee of stakeholders reviewed possible sites for a new elementary school and provided a recommendation to Dr. Starr.  The committee recommended a site in the Clarksburg Village community, on the south side of Snowden Farm Parkway between Sweetspire Drive and Newcut Road. This is one of two sites that were set aside as a school site in Clarksburg Village as part of the Clarksburg master plan.

Dr. Starr agreed with the committee’s recommendation based on the amount of new housing already under construction in and around Clarksburg Village and the fact that schools in this area are projected to exceed their capacity.

At this time, the new Clarksburg elementary school does not have an opening date or an official name.

Read Dr. Starr’s recommendation on the site selection

Proposed Changes to Regulation FAA-RA, Long-range Educational Facilities Planning

Dr. Starr is proposing changes to MCPS Regulation FAA-RA—Long-range Educational Facilities Planning, which provides guidelines and descriptions of processes used in facility planning.  Dr. Starr’s proposed modifications would bring the regulation in line with current planning practice for facilities and community input processes. The regulation was last revised in 2008.

Numerical Guidelines for Preferred School Enrollment Ranges

The proposed guidelines would keep the preferred maximum enrollments at elementary and middle schools the same—750 and 1,200 students respectively—but would increase the preferred maximum enrollment for high schools from 2,000 to 2,400 students. The change in the upper range of high school size reflects the need to address enrollment growth and to align the guideline with current planning for 2,400 capacity high schools.

School Size Sites

Dr. Starr is proposing changes to the size of future school sites.  Instead of stating a preferred site size, as in the past, the new guideline states the minimum usable acreage a school site needs to be in order to accommodate the school instructional programs and exterior needs, such as parking, bus loops, playgrounds and fields. The proposal calls for a minimum usable acreage of 7.5 acres for elementary schools, 15.5 acres for middle schools, and 35 acres for high schools.

School Capacity Calculation

Dr. Starr is proposing updated language describing school capacity calculations for Class Size Reduction Schools to bring it in line with current practice. When Class Size Reduction Schools were first established, kindergarten classrooms were rated at 15 students per classroom and Grades 1 and Grade 2 classrooms were rated at 17 students per classroom.  This was consistent with the staffing ratios for these grades.  However, for a number of years, staffing at Class Size Reduction Schools for kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 2 has been at 18 students per teacher.  Therefore, the updated guideline would rate classrooms serving kindergarteners and students in Grades 1 and 2 at 18 students per classroom.  It is important to note that this does not increase class size in these schools.  Instead, the proposed change simply aligns capacity ratings with existing staffing levels.

Community Involvement Processes

The proposed changes to the regulation will include a section on the roundtable discussion group process, which has become a valuable tool for community involvement on a variety of facility-related issues. Proposed changes to the guidelines on school site selection advisory committees also need to be made, to align with current practice, including:
-  Having representatives of homeowner associations from areas surrounding possible school sites on site selection committees;
-  Opportunities for the public to comment on school sites recommended by site selection advisory committees; and
-  Advisory committee-recommended sites being subject to review and comment by the Montgomery County Planning Board.

Read Dr. Starr’s proposed changes to MCPS Regulation FAA-RA

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