As the Montgomery County Board of Education on Tuesday night voted to approve a $1.82 billion, six-year construction plan, Superintendent Jack Smith said he has “very real anxiety” about getting full funding from the county government.
The plan includes nine “major” projects — either additions or complete rebuilds of schools -— and makes space for 14,000 students.
The capital improvements program (CIP) and capital budget now head to the County Council and County Executive Marc Elrich for review through the spring before final adoption by the school board in mid-2020. The county government funds the majority of school construction.
“It’s important to come together as a community and say these are imperative and go to the well-being … of 166,000-plus pre-K through 12th-grade students,” Smith said. “That urgency has to be felt in our community.”
The school district’s CIP for fiscal years 2021-2026 was previously set, but each year, the school board can adjust the plan. The updated CIP represents a $74.2 million increase over what was previously approved.
The school board made few changes to the recommended CIP and capital budget Smith put forth in October. The board met several times and held multiple public hearings to receive feedback.
The CIP also includes:
• additions at Bethesda, William Tyler Page and Westbrook elementary schools
• a new elementary school to address crowding in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Walter Johnson high school clusters
• six previously approved elementary school addition projects
• money to plan additions at Lake Seneca, Highland View and Thurgood Marshall elementary schools.
At the middle school level, the CIP includes five previously approved additions at Col. E. Brooke Lee, Parkland, Thomas W. Pyle, Silver Spring International and Takoma Park middle schools.
Addition projects are planned for John F. Kennedy, Walt Whitman and Northwood high schools.
A new high school will open in Gaithersburg and the former Charles W. Woodward High School will also reopen.
Schools tabbed for “major” projects and their anticipated completion dates are:
- Burnt Mills Elementary, September 2023
- South Lake Elementary, September 2023
- Woodlin Elementary, September 2023
- Stonegate Elementary, September 2024
- Neelsville Middle, September 2024
- Poolesville High, September 2024
- Damascus High, September 2025
- Thomas S. Wootton High, September 2026
- Col. Zadok Magruder, September 2027
The nine projects are estimated to cost a total of $397.6 million.
“Even though this is a wonderful start, this isn’t all that we need,” school board Vice President Pat O’Neill said. “We’re going to need every single seat that’s in this budget.”
Also included in the CIP is funding for projects to bring many schools into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires that public agencies ensure “people with disabilities should be able to arrive on site, approach the building or facility and its amenities and enter as freely as everyone else.”
MCPS data show that 16 schools’ interior features require “major capital investment” to comply, and most schools’ exteriors need a moderate amount of work.
“These school communities are counting on us to move these projects forward,” school board member Karla Silvestre said.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at email@example.com