Supt. Recommends Reopening Arcola Elementary

October 29, 2002
The reopening of the former Arcola Elementary School to relieve overcrowding in the John F. Kennedy and Albert Einstein clusters was recommended to the Board of Education today [Tuesday, October 29] by Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of the Montgomery County Public Schools, in the new Capital Improvements Program (CIP) amendments for Fiscal Years 2004 through 2008.

The elementary school, which would reopen in the fall of 2006, is one of just eight recommended amendments to the current CIP, which was approved last spring. The CIP uses a biennial budget process that provides an opportunity for major revisions on a two-year cycle, with the FY 2004 budget considered as the “off year.”

Because of this, Dr. Weast recommended no changes in the overall budget amount for Fiscal Year 2004. Instead, he proposed modifications that would free up planning funds for one new project, the reopened elementary. The school would offset overcrowding at Highland Elementary School in the Einstein cluster and Kemp Mill Elementary in the Kennedy cluster.

The Board of Education will hold a public hearing on the Recommended FY 2004 Capital Budget and Amendments to the FY 2003–2008 CIP on November 13 and 14, 2002, with action scheduled for November 21, 2002. The public hearings will begin at 7:00 p.m. in the auditorium of the Carver Educational Services Center in Rockville.

The detailed budget recommendation is available on the school system’s website at the link below.

Last spring, the County Council adopted the FY 2003-2008 CIP and approved $112.6 million for the Board of Education in FY 2004. The full six-year adopted CIP is $627.8 million. Dr. Weast proposed an increase of $4.2 million for the remaining four years (2005 to 2008).

Besides the reopened school, the new proposals involve fire safety code upgrades of $950,000, an amount $1 million less than earlier projected. Also included is $1.43 million for replacement cafeteria equipment and mechanical system upgrades, among other improvements.

The proposals include $200,000 for various security measures, including those affecting relocatable classrooms, and $130,000 for stadium lighting at Springbrook High School, the only high school without these lights. Another $150,000 is earmarked to provide advance funding for concession stand improvements that will be repaid by booster clubs.

Technology improvements of $600,000 were identified to begin modernizing the oldest equipment still being used from the first Global Access installations in FY 1994–1995. The final change is the movement of the Walter Johnson High School modernization from a future to a current budgetary category.

In the past two fiscal years, the amount of state aid that MCPS has received through the State of Maryland Public School Construction Program has been decreased from a high of over $50 million for FY 2000 and FY 2001 to $18 million for FY 2003. For FY 2004, the adopted CIP assumes revenue from state aid in the amount of $30 million. This amount in the FY 2004 MCPS State CIP Request is approximately $18.45 million and includes projects that were approved by the County Council in May 2002 as part of the adopted FY 2003–2008 CIP.

Planning factors influencing the superintendent’s recommendations include continued enrollment growth. Preliminary enrollment this year is 139,500 students, an increase of 2,668 students from last year. By 2008, enrollment is projected to reach 144,801.

With increasing numbers of births, elementary school enrollment that once was projected to plateau will begin to increase again. By 2007, most middle schools and high schools will be at or nearing peak enrollment levels. After that time, enrollment will again increase, corresponding to the increased number of births recorded in 2000 and beyond.

Among other proposals, the amended budget would incorporate the boundary recommendations for Gaithersburg and Strawberry Knoll elementary schools.
In addition, Dr. Weast noted that a task force was to be formed with representation from MCCPTA and other stakeholders to evaluate options on the implementation of full-day kindergarten in all MCPS elementary schools by September 2007.

Other recommendations include articulation patterns for East Silver Spring, Takoma Park, and Piney Branch elementary schools; relieving overcrowding at Highland and Kemp Mill elementary schools by reopening Arcola; and elementary school sites in the Clarksburg area.

The County Council will schedule a work/action session in early December to discuss the portion of the FY 2004 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, 2002.

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