MCPS Retooling Model for Ranking School Expansion, Revitalization Projects

Proposed approach would take capacity into account


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Andrew Zuckerman, chief operating officer for MCPS, talks about new approaches to ranking school renovation and expansion projects.

Via Montgomery County Public Schools

School officials are looking to change up the way they rank expansion and rehabilitation projects in line for funding.

For years, Montgomery County Public Schools has formed its project queue based on a one-time assessment of a school’s condition. This evaluation looks only at the facility’s age and physical state and doesn’t take into account the school’s capacity or impact of various programs. And once established, the school’s place in the lineup might remain fixed for two decades or more.

Andrew Zuckerman, chief operating officer for MCPS, told the Board of Education on Tuesday that his office is updating this system as staff begins drafting a six-year plan for capital projects. 

For example, the proposed approach would factor in the amount of crowding at a school and programmatic uses, he said. He and his office’s executive director, Essie McGuire, also recommended reevaluating the queue on a regular basis. Since buildings deteriorate at different paces, more frequent checks are necessary to make sure the most urgent projects rise to the top of the capital improvements program, she said.

School Board member Judith Docca said she agreed school capacity considerations have been missing from MCPS’s approach to prioritizing revitalization and addition projects.

“That has caused us a lot of problems in the past, and I appreciate you making a change there,” she said.

Board member Patricia O’Neill stressed the importance of showing the community that the ranking system is trustworthy.

“We need something that is absolutely fair, that’s absolutely objective,” she said.

McGuire said MCPS is also reexamining its long-range planning strategies, working with an external consultant to develop strategic growth management plans that look beyond the six-year horizon of the school system’s capital improvement program. Staff will likely use this model to do far-reaching planning in the Walter Johnson and Bethesda-Chevy Chase clusters, where development activity is expected to put pressure on school capacity.

These new planning approaches will come into play as MCPS staff prepares the superintendent’s recommended capital improvement program for fiscal 2019-2024, slated for release in October.

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