Study Group To Look at Using Woodward High To Deal With Capacity Crunch at Eight Schools

Study Group To Look at Using Woodward High To Deal With Capacity Crunch at Eight Schools

Group will also brainstorm about moving alternative programs into nontraditional spaces

| Published:

Tilden Middle School on Old Georgetown Road in the former Woodward High School building

VIA MCPS

The very earliest that Woodward High School in Rockville could reopen to ease overcrowding is September 2022, but education leaders are already starting to make plans for the space

Montgomery County Public Schools staff met with about 70 parents Thursday in the cafeteria of Tilden Middle School—temporarily housed in the former Woodward High building—to answer questions about what the school’s reopening could mean for students around the region.

MCPS is about to launch a study group on using Woodward High to provide relief for eight schools: Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Montgomery Blair, Albert Einstein, Walter Johnson, John. F. Kennedy, Northwood, Walt Whitman and Wheaton high schools.

But bringing Woodward High back online will not solve overcrowding problems, said Debbie Szyfer, senior planner for MCPS

By 2031, the eight high schools in the study area will be over capacity by an estimated 3,455 students, according to data she presented. The crunch would be most severe at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, with a projected shortage of 965 seats, and Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, with a projected shortage of 780 seats.

“I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and I don’t recall ever seeing high schools with these kinds of deficits,” Szyfer said.

Enrollment projections for the eight high schools covered by the Woodward High study group (click to expand). Credit: Montgomery County Public Schools.

Reopening Woodward High will take at least five years because the Old Georgetown Road building is temporarily accommodating Tilden Middle during the construction of a new school. The new Tilden Middle won’t be open until 2020, after which work can begin on expanding the Woodward building to serve as a high school. Szyfer said the building will need more than double its existing square footage to meet modern MCPS standards for a high school.

The construction process would take a few years, and the oldest students with any possibility of attending the future Woodward High would currently be in the fifth grade, Szyfer said.

The average high school has space for about 2,400 students, so even with Woodward High, the system would need another 1,000 seats to handle the anticipated 2031 enrollment in the study area. As a result, MCPS has also called for a separate study group to explore additions to schools in the Downcounty Consortium, which includes Blair, Einstein, Northwood and Kennedy high schools.

The Woodward High study group will be made up of cluster coordinators, high school representatives, students, MCPS central office staff and advocates. The group will hold six meetings over the next few months and present its ideas to Superintendent Jack Smith in May, according to Denise Bracalilly Stultz, MCPS director of family and community engagement.

The group will also look at moving alternative and vocational programs into nontraditional spaces, such as businesses, but will not discuss any attendance boundary changes.

Presentations and information discussed by the group will be posted on its webpage.

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