Montgomery School Board Approves Boost For Facilities

By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Montgomery County school board approved a $269 million facilities spending plan last night for the next fiscal year, a $30 million increase over the budget approved by the County Council for the current year.

School officials said they increased the capital budget, originally set at $258 million, after learning that the county would probably receive substantially more than the $40 million in state aid budgeted by the County Council for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Superintendent Jerry D. Weast told school board members that the system would get at least $10 million more than the $40 million in state construction funds originally budgeted. But, he said, "I am taking a risk in my recommendation to you" that the money will be delivered. Weast also said that the board should be "careful" in requesting that local taxpayers contribute more than $200 million of the construction budget. The council must approve the capital plan.

The final facilities plan, also known as the capital plan, reflects successful lobbying efforts by groups at several schools.

The school system's current operating budget, separate from the facilities budget, is about $2 billion.

Weast withdrew a proposal to study the possible "co-location" of Stephen Knolls School in Kensington, which would have closed the special-needs facility and moved its students to an elementary school. Parents at the school had protested the plan for several reasons, including the fact that a memorial garden had recently been dedicated at the school for students who have died.

Weast also increased funding to renovate Redland Middle School in Rockville, built in a 1970s "open school" design. Parents protested after a planned $20 million renovation was cut to $6 million. It is now budgeted at $12.5 million.

The revised capital plan also calls for an extra $2 million to begin modernizing Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville.

The school system's long-term facilities plan calls for a reduction in portable classrooms from 462 this fall to 256 in 2012. Over the past decade, parents have repeatedly complained about the relatively high number of trailers used in the county, which peaked at 685 in 2005.

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