Board of Education Gives Unanimous Support to Six-Year School Construction Plan

Project lineup includes funding for reopening Woodward High, building new high school in Gaithersburg


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The Montgomery County school board Monday night signed off on a $1.83 billion school construction plan that calls for reopening Woodward High School in Rockville, expanding John. F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring and building a new high school in Gaithersburg.

Board members said the proposal does a good job of stretching limited dollars to address capacity and renovation needs across the school system. However, they recognized that many community members will still view the six-year capital funding program with disappointment.

Board member Pat O’Neill said that “$1.83 billion is a lot of money in the six years, but truth be told, we could probably spend almost double that to get through everything we really need to do. There’s still a whole laundry list of schools we’re not touching.”

Before giving the plan unanimous approval, board members put several finishing touches on the proposal, which has been debated by community members since its presentation last month.

  • The board approved a resolution to kick off the site selection process for a seventh elementary school in the Walter Johnson Cluster. O’Neill’s proposal directs the school system to start the search in the spring of 2018. O’Neill said MCPS needs to start choosing an elementary school site because of the enrollment growth that will come with the wave of anticipated development in the cluster.
  • At Superintendent Jack Smith’s request, board members added $12 million to the capital plan to explore relocating the materials management warehouse currently on Stonestreet Avenue in Rockville. Smith said Rockville community members are concerned about the facility, which is in “pretty serious, desperate need of some repairs and replacements.”
  • Another amendment to the CIP directs Montgomery County Public Schools officials to form a roundtable group to start planning for the new high school on the Crown Farms property in Gaithersburg. Board member Rebecca Smondrowski said the group should include representatives from the Gaithersburg, Richard Montgomery, Quince Orchard and Thomas S. Wootton clusters.
  • Smondrowski also proposed instructing MCPS to work with representatives from the Quince Orchard Cluster on growth management planning and to collaborate with the city of Gaithersburg to identify future elementary school sites. Board members agreed to include the suggestion in the capital plan.

The school’s capital improvements program, which covers the years from fiscal 2019 through 2024, does not include a project date for replacing Poolesville High School. Parents in the Poolesville community have lobbied hard for a new school, saying the existing building is run down and outdated.

Completion dates for a number of renovations and expansions at schools—including Poolesville and Thomas S. Wootton high schools—were placed in a “to be determined” status in the drafted CIP because MCPS officials are reexamining the way they plan and rank these projects.

However, the plan does include a number of major new initiatives, such as the effort to overhaul and reopen the old Woodward High School. The move is designed to relieve overcrowding in the Walter Johnson Cluster and in the Downcounty Consortium. The program also includes about $136 million in project funding for a new high school in Gaithersburg.

“No one has been forgotten, and I know that sometimes it can feel that way, but they’ve not,” Smondrowski said. “We have to continue doing the best that we can for all of our schools, and I do feel like the CIP does that to the best of its ability with limited funding.”

The County Council also reviews the school system CIP and is scheduled to approve a final version in late May.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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