The Washington Post

New capital plan introduced for Montgomery Schools

Montgomery schools superintendent Josh Starr is requesting $1.5 billion for school building projects in a six-year plan released Friday. The new plan includes a $279 million investment for the next school year alone.

Here’s a partial breakdown of how the plan could affect your school:

Recommendations for new schools

A new middle school in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster and new elementary schools in the Northwest and Richard Montgomery clusters.

Recommended classroom additions

Arcola, Bethesda, Highland View, North Chevy Chase, Rosemary Hills and Wood Acres elementary schools and Julius West Middle School.

Recommended renovations

(Due for completion between 2018 and 2021)

Cold Spring, Dufief, Belmont, Stonegate, Damascus, Twinbrook, Summit Hall and Rosemary Hills elementary schools, as well as a modernization project that would collocate Maryvale Elementary School and the Carl Sandburg Learning Center.

Delays for new schools or renovations in the current plan

Modernization of William H. Farquhar Middle School and Wheaton High School/Thomas Edison School of Technology would be delayed by a year. The construction of a new middle school in the Clarksburg/Damascus area would also be delayed by one year.

Recommended boundary changes

In the Bethesda Chevy Chase cluster, to relieve crowding at Bethesda, Chevy Chase, North Chevy Chase and Rosemary Hills elementary schools; and in the Down County Consortium, to make way for a new elementary school opening in the McKenney Hills neighborhood next fall.

Capital expenditures are funded largely through general obligation bonds, as well as through state aid and local funds. Such a hefty investment will probably be hard to secure, with revenues down and a county council determined to put a cap on borrowing and a county executive urging school officials to trim their requests.

But school officials say more money is badly needed to keep up with demand and that low labor costs make it an opportune time to build.

The school system, now 146,600 students strong, is in the midst of a population boom. Enrollment has grown by nearly 9,000 students since 2007, and it’s expected to grow by another 9,000 by 2017.

School planners say the surge is tied largely to the economy — with fewer families leaving the area for jobs elsewhere and more families moving in with relatives or co-habitating. More students are also leaving private schools: Some 85 percent of school-age children in Montgomery now attend public schools, up from 81 percent in 2000.

TIMELINE and YOUR chance to respond:

The Board of Education is scheduled to hold a work session on Nov. 2 to discuss Starr’s recommendations. Public hearings will be held Nov. 10 and Nov 14. The board will vote on November 17.

You can also share your thoughts on the plan in the comments below.

Michael Alison Chandler writes about schools and families in the Washington region.

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