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MCPS: $1.74 Billion Still Won't Be Enough to Stop Overcrowding

The county school board's most recent capital improvement program calls for a significant amount of money, but it's still not the ideal amount.

Temporary classrooms at North Chevy Chase Elementary School, August 2011. Patch file photo by Laura L. Thornton.
Temporary classrooms at North Chevy Chase Elementary School, August 2011. Patch file photo by Laura L. Thornton.
To help ease overcrowding in Montgomery County Public Schools, the county's board of education unanimously approved on Monday a six-year Capital Improvements Program (CIP) request for $1.74 billion, according to a news release from the school department.

That amount would enable the county to complete 14 new classroom addition projects and keep on schedule many other projects that will add capacity to schools, the release added.

But, while the "board’s CIP request represents an increase of more than $376.5 million over the current CIP [for fiscal years 2013 to 2018, it] is far less than the district’s actual need. It would require a $2.2 billion CIP to meet all of the district’s pressing facility, infrastructure and technology needs," according to the MCPS news release.

"We are approving a substantial CIP request...but, even if it is fully funded, it won’t meet all the needs we have," Phil Kauffman, vice president of the county's school board, said. "We must find additional revenue from the state that will allow MCPS to provide all students with a modern, safe classroom where they can learn and grow."

A new six-year CIP is approved every two years. 

"Enrollment in MCPS has grown by nearly 14,000 students over the past six years and that growth is expected to continue in the years to come," Board President Christopher Barclay said in a statement.

Nearly 90 percent of the enrollment growth the system has experienced over the past six years has been in elementary schools. Of the 14 new classroom addition projects in the CIP request, 12 are for elementary schools, including five in the Downcounty Consortium, where enrollment growth has been the most dramatic. The request also increases funding for countywide infrastructure projects, including heating, ventilation and air conditioning replacement, which has fallen behind in recent years, according to the news release.

"Over the past several years, Montgomery County has only received about 11 percent of state’s school construction funds, even though MCPS accounts for about 17 percent of the state’s total public school enrollment. From 2000 to 2012, MCPS has experienced more growth than the public schools in Anne Arundel, Howard, Frederick and Baltimore counties combined. Yet for this fiscal year (fiscal year 2014), MCPS requested $149.3 million in state aid for school construction and received $35.1 million," the statement continued.

The Montgomery County Board of Education joined Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, members of the Montgomery County Council and the county’s legislative delegation in October to ask the state for additional funding for projects addressing school overcrowding in the county. Leggett made a request for $20 million from the state to leverage a $40 million investment made by the county in the school system, Patch reported.

The board’s CIP request will be submitted to the county executive and the county council for consideration. The county executive will release his CIP for the county, including MCPS, in January. The board will consider the CIP request in the spring. 

The board’s CIP includes classroom additions at five Downcounty Consortium elementary schools (Brookhaven, Glen Haven, Kemp Mill, Sargent Shriver and Highland) and seven other elementary schools (Ashburton, Lucy V. Barnsley, Burtonsville, Diamond, Kensington-Parkwood, Christa McAuliffe and Judith Resnik), the news release added.

The CIP request also maintains the completion dates of several other elementary school capacity projects that previously have been approved, including additions at six schools (Waters Landing, Arcola, Bethesda, North Chevy Chase, Rosemary Hills and Wood Acres), and new elementary schools in the Clarksburg, Northwest and Richard Montgomery clusters, according to the news release.

The Board’s CIP also includes new additions at two secondary schools (North Bethesda Middle School and Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School) and maintains the completion dates for previously approved secondary school capacity projects, including classroom additions at Julius West Middle School and Clarksburg High School, and new middle schools that will serve the Clarksburg/Damascus and Bethesda-Chevy Chase clusters, the news release added.

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