2021 | Schools

More funds needed to keep MCPS projects on track as construction industry struggles

Interim superintendent recommends $119 million increase over six years to capital budget

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To keep planned projects on track as supply and labor shortages plague the construction industry, Montgomery County Public Schools needs to bolster its capital budget, district leaders said Monday.

In total, Interim Superintendent Monifa McKnight’s recommended changes would require an increase of $119 million to the six-year capital budget. With the increase, the six-year budget would total about $1.74 billion.

McKnight’s recommendation would also move about $250 million from some of the later years into Fiscal Years 2023 and 2024.

McKnight said during a meeting with the Board of Education on Monday that construction costs have increased an average of 23% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have to really think about that if we want to stay and keep our previously approved completion dates of our projects,” McKnight said. “And we have to understand that this all fits into the increases of the total project costs we are having right now.”

Seven previously approved projects will be more expensive, MCPS officials said.

Those projects and their estimated increase:
• The new Crown High School in Gaithersburg: $43 million
• JoAnn Leleck at Broad Acres: $4.3 million
• Northwood High School: $34.7 million
• Charles W. Woodward High School reopening: $48.8 million
• Neelsville Middle School: $10.4 million
• Damascus High School: $33.3 million
• Thomas S. Wootton High School: $10 million.

The district also plans addition projects at Burtonsville and Greencastle elementary schools to be completed in August 2025. The recommended changes to the capital budget also include planning funds for “major capital projects” at Piney Branch and Eastern middle schools.

The scope of the major projects has yet to be determined. Construction funds would be added in later iterations of the capital budget.

The district also plans to focus on finding sites for future early childhood education programs, reserve funds for “replacement of major building components,” begin the selection process to find a new location for the materials management facility and fund “sustainability projects” (like installing solar panels at school facilities).

Feasibility studies to determine what construction projects are needed are planned at 12 schools. Those schools have recorded the worst results in assessments of facility conditions, according to MCPS Director of Facilities Management Seth Adams.

Those schools are:

• Belmont Elementary School
• Cold Spring Elementary School
• Damascus Elementary School
• DuFief Elementary School
• Oakland Terrace Elementary School
• Sherwood Elementary School
• Twinbrook Elementary School
• Whetstone Elementary School
• Woodfield Elementary School
• Benjamin Banneker Middle School
• Gaithersburg Middle School
• White Oak Middle School.

A boundary study is planned to determine which students will attend a new elementary school in Clarksburg when it opens in 2023.

The elementary schools included in the boundary study are recommended to be: Clarksburg, William B. Gibbs, Little Bennett and Wilson Wims.

No high schools or middle schools are included in the study.

The boundary study is expected to be conducted in the spring, with final action in November 2022.

Last year, the Board of Education requested a six-year capital budget of $1.73 billion, a roughly $3.7 million increase from the previous year. The County Council approved a capital budget that totaled $1.62 billion.

The school board will hold several work sessions and public hearings about the proposed changes to the budget before sending it to the County Council and County Executive Marc Elrich for review in mid-November.

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