Montgomery County’s interim schools chief proposed a $1.72 billion construction plan Wednesday that would add hundreds of classrooms to the fast-growing district during the next six years as its enrollment continues to surge.
Larry A. Bowers recommended increasing the capital budget by $172 million as part of a plan that includes 10 new classroom addition projects, a new elementary school in the Clarksburg area and turf fields at county high schools.
The six-year plan keeps most previously approved school construction projects on track but removes five classroom additions and delays one new-school project by a year, as school officials seek to prioritize the most pressing space needs.
The school board’s president, Patricia O’Neill, called it an aggressive plan that responds to capacity problems, projected growth in middle schools and high schools, and aging infrastructure.
“He’s looked at it holistically,” she said during an appearance with Bowers at Seneca Valley High School in Germantown, which is scheduled to be rebuilt and expanded.
The plan, which requires school board and County Council approval, includes a project to install artificial turf fields at the 19 high schools that do not have them. School officials have targeted $11 million for the effort and say they hope public-private partnerships can be used to offset district costs.
The broad look at construction needs in Maryland’s largest school system comes at a time of budget strain. Elected leaders, educators and parents in Montgomery have made intensive lobbying efforts for more state funds for school construction.
“While we’ve worked on this the past two years, we haven’t been successful, but we will keep on trying,” O’Neill said at the news conference.
County Council member Craig Rice (D-Upcounty) described schools as a driver of economic development for the state and said it is frustrating to repeatedly request state help “only to be turned away empty-handed.” He said he would continue the push for funding.
Enrollment in Montgomery has been on the rise since 2007, climbing by more than 18,700 students — enough to fill 25 elementary schools — with 10,000 more students expected during the next six years.
School officials said the funding plan is split between projects to replace aging schools (about 35 percent), those designed to increase capacity (about 37 percent), and funds for improvements such as fixing roofs and heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems (about 28 percent).
The five elementary schools that were not included in the new plan are Brookhaven, Glen Haven, Highland, Kemp Mill and Sargent Shriver. School officials said plans changed as a result of enrollment fluctuations and an updated capacity rating for the schools.
The new classroom additions include projects at East Silver Spring, Greencastle, Montgomery Knolls, Pine Crest, Piney Branch and Woodlin elementary schools. Also slated to expand are Col. E. Brooke Lee, Thomas W. Pyle and Takoma Park middle schools, and Walt Whitman High School.
The recommendations follow a county report issued in August that was critical of the way the school system ranks which schools are next in line for modernization.
School officials said Wednesday that a committee will meet to reassess school facilities to determine which schools are most in need of updating. Bowers’s plan does not reflect such changes, they said.
The plan keeps completion dates for five previously approved elementary school additions on schedule and speeds up addition projects at Ashburton and S. Christa McAuliffe elementary schools — which are the most over-enrolled.
Other new-school projects staying on track are middle schools for the Damascus-Clarksburg and Bethesda-Chevy Chase areas and an elementary school in Rockville. A project to build a new elementary school in Germantown will be delayed a year.
The school board is scheduled to consider the recommendations at a work session Nov. 5, with public hearings set for Nov. 9 and Nov. 12, and final action expected Nov. 16.