2021 | Schools

MCPS scales down plans for Woodward High as costs increase

Capacity cut from 2,700 students to 2,160 students

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An updated sketch of the Woodward High School project.

via MCPS

As costs increase, Montgomery County Public Schools has adjusted its plans for the renovated Charles W. Woodward High School, removing several classrooms and reducing the maximum capacity by about 540 students.

In 2019, the school board approved a $125 million project to overhaul the Rockville school with the long-term goal of fully reopening it.

Original plans called for an enrollment of 2,700 students, but on Thursday, the school board voted to approve new plans that cut the capacity to 2,160 students.

Several classrooms will be removed to shrink the school’s size by about 35,575 square feet.

The changes come as construction costs balloon due to challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Director of Facilities Management Seth Adams. He said adjusting the plan now will allow for it to remain on schedule while still accomplishing three key goals:

• House students from Northwood High while their school is rebuilt

• Reopen as its own school once Northwood students depart

• Be home to a high school arts program

In total, about 16 classrooms were removed from the project’s design, along with some offices and lab space.

Without the changes, the project would be about $18 million over budget, Adams said. Even with the changes, the project is expected to be about $4 million over budget, but it will be offset by savings from other recent projects completed under budget.

“We will have a building capacity and programs that are going to meet the needs of students and the community,” Adams said. “We’re trying to optimize everything in order to move forward.”

The plans show two phases of construction. The first will include renovating the Woodward High building for use as a temporary school for Northwood High School students from 2023 to 2025 as Northwood undergoes an extensive renovation.

It includes building outdoor tennis and basketball courts, a new bus loop and part of a parking garage, according to Planning Board documents.

Adams said additional student capacity could be added in later phases of construction or with a later separate addition project.

Then, in 2025, Woodward will reopen as a new MCPS high school, complete with an athletic stadium.

Woodward sits on a 27-acre site on Old Georgetown Road that was developed in 1967. The existing building can hold about 1,200 students. For several years, it has acted as a temporary school for Tilden Middle School while that building undergoes a construction project.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com