School Officials, Planning Board Welcome Era of Cooperation

Two groups meet to talk about future development, enrollment projections


Published:

Via Montgomery County Planning Department

School board members and county planners celebrated new warmth in their working relationship during a joint meeting Wednesday.

The two groups of officials said they’ve sometimes pointed the finger at one another over development and school capacity issues. However, members of the Montgomery County Planning Board and Board of Education said they’re encouraged by recent collaboration on identifying school sites and predicting future enrollment.

Planning board member Marye Wells-Harley said interactions between the two groups weren’t as friendly when she was first appointed in 2009.

“We were all very adversarial: ‘It’s your fault.’ ‘No, it’s your fault,’ ” she said during the annual gathering of the planning and school boards.

The two groups on Wednesday talked about a parks project to rehabilitate ballfields at county schools, master planning efforts and enrollment growth estimates. Planning staff talked about how they’ve increased the accuracy of their data by keeping track of where students live and what housing type they occupy. Regularly updating the formulas used to calculate the pupil yield for new home construction also helps officials generate more precise estimates, they said.

School board members said they were encouraged by the information, but don’t believe that community members trust the enrollment projections.

“There’s skepticism among our parent community, and [in] the Bethesda area in particular,” school board member Pat O’Neill said.

Cooperation between planning and education officials is essential as major proposals—like the Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan—make their way through the approval process, the officials agreed.

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