2021 | Schools

School board to discuss reopening, contingency plan, building projects at meeting Thursday

Plus: Vaccination clinics scheduled for MCPS employees, students

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School board to discuss reopening, contingency plan, building projects at meeting Thursday

The Montgomery County Board of Education will meet on Thursday with a packed agenda that includes discussions about the reopening of schools this fall, contingency plans if the spread of COVID-19 forces schools to close and several ongoing building projects.

The meeting is scheduled to run from noon to 6 p.m. at the MCPS headquarters in Rockville.

The meeting will include “reflections” about the first day of school from students and principals, according to the agenda, then the school board will discuss its “contingency plans” if state officials order reduced capacity in schools — or building closures altogether — due to the spread of COVID-19. In recent weeks, MCPS leaders have said they will not close schools and pivot to virtual classes unless ordered to do so by state officials.

The board will receive an update on the renovation of Charles W. Woodward High School in Rockville.

Woodward is next scheduled to house students from Northwood High School in Silver Spring, which is slated for a $123 million expansion to begin in 2023. The Northwood project requires students to be moved off-site during construction, so they will attend classes at Woodward until it is completed. Woodward will then reopen as a new, full-scale high school.

The school board in 2019 committed $125 million for the renovation project at Woodward, which is underway.

In recent years, then-Superintendent Jack Smith said Woodward could reopen and house the county’s first secondary-level arts magnet program. What the program would include and its capacity has not been publicly disclosed, but a school system spokesperson said in 2019 it would not be a whole-school magnet.

The school system convened a committee, chaired by Eliot Pfanstiehl, former chief executive officer of the Strathmore performing arts center in North Bethesda, to iron out the details of the program.

The board will also discuss concerns raised by the Montgomery County Planning Board about the construction of a new elementary school in Clarksburg.

In June, the Planning Board — which reviews school projects in the county — formally objected to the plans for the school, criticizing the design: a building in the middle of a lot, surrounded by parking and fields.

That standard design pitched by MCPS creates a barrier to the community, despite school facilities being intended as amenities for the public, Vice Chair Natali Fani Gonzalez said during the June meeting.

Planning Board members said MCPS has again disregarded their guidance that school buildings be positioned closer to a road, with parking lots, athletic fields and playgrounds on the sides or tucked behind.

The designs for the elementary school, like many other school projects, show the school building in the middle of the nearly 10-acre lot, with parking and bus loops at the front and fields behind.

The long-anticipated new elementary school, in Clarksburg, is intended to relieve crowding in nearby schools and accommodate new residential development. It was one of five new elementary schools planned as part of the long-range plan for the community.

It is expected to cost about $38 million and enroll 720 students.

The new Clarksburg elementary school will enroll students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade and is scheduled to be completed in 2023.

Vaccination clinics scheduled for MCPS employees, students

There are three upcoming COVID-19 vaccination clinics scheduled for MCPS employees and students who are 12 years old or older.

Appointments are not required, but are available.

The clinics will be held:

10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 4 at Watkins Mill High School in Gaithersburg

6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 8 at Kingdom Fellowship Church in Silver Spring

10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 18 in the White Oak Sears parking lot, on New Hampshire Road

MCPS employees are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or take a weekly test. The district has not yet announced a date by which proof of vaccination must be submitted.

In Montgomery County, 86% of people 12 and older are fully vaccinated against the virus, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 95% have received at least one dose of the vaccine.