The Blueprint

New $1.8 billion Montgomery County Public Schools proposal aims to combat overcrowding

by Maraki Solomon, Staff Writer

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Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith has cobbled together a $1.8 billion capital improvement plan that consists of 30 building projects, including the reopening of Woodward High School in Rockville, as well as the construction of a new high school in Gaithersburg, in efforts to ease the overcrowding issues in the county.

This bold proposal would include 30 building projects in total, preparing the county for the rapidly growing school system’s future demands.

According to the Washington Post, in addition to the new high school plans, “Two elementary schools would be built in the Clarksburg area and another in Rockville. More than two dozen schools would get classroom additions, including a major expansion and upgrade at Northwood High School that would increase its capacity by 1,200 students.”

Woodward High School had originally been shut down in 1985 due to a decline in enrollment in Bethesda and Rockville schools. MCPS is now reviving the school to relieve the congestion of students in the Downcounty Consortium and Walter Johnson cluster. The county’s goal is to be able to accommodate at least 2,700 students, which would require extreme renovation and reconstruction of the now age-old facility, that is temporarily holding Tilden Middle School. Once the project begins, Tilden will be relocated on Tilden lane alongside Rock Terrace School. The new high school is set to open no earlier than September of 2022.

Smith’s six year plan to bring back the old high school will help diffuse the pressing issue, but will not solve the increasing overcrowding in MCPS. According to the senior planner for MCPS, Debbie Szyfer, a study group is being launched to alleviate the growth of students in the following high schools: Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Montgomery Blair, Albert Einstein, Walter Johnson, John. F. Kennedy, Northwood, Walt Whitman and Wheaton.

The projections of Szyfer’s data show that these schools will face a shortage of space for 3,455 students, 965 of those at Walter Johnson, the school that would take the hardest hit of them all.  

MCPS has been facing significant growth within the past 10 years and this school year there was a total of 161,936 students enrolled, with an upsurge of over 24,000 students since 2007.

Not much information has been provided regarding the new Gaithersburg High School but MCPS has released some basic details. The school is to be built on a 30-acre plot of land in the Crown community of Gaithersburg. The project  is estimated to cost $95.8 million and will replace a 62-year old building. 

However, not everyone in the county is satisfied with the new proposal and there have been many complaints about Superintendent Jack R. Smith’s methods during his tenure. In the proposal, Smith includes that the county will now change the way they prioritize schools for expansions or renovations.

For quite some time, the county kept a list of schools who would receive said funding or additions, but that list is no longer in use. For schools like Poolesville and Albert Einstein, who were once at the top of the list, this is disappointing to hear. County officials have not yet specified any new method of going about this aspect of the budget, but it is expected that there will be some sort of announcement regarding this soon.

As for Springbrook, our school was not even mentioned in the Fiscal Year 2018 Operating Budget, and there has been no indication that Springbrook will be included in the new Capital Budget Proposal. Founded in 1960, Springbrook High School has only had one renovation in its entire existence, which was carried out in 1993, almost 25 years ago.

“I do want Springbrook to be renovated. But it’s important to realize that the reason they’re not doing it is because schools in Gaithersburg and Bethesda are getting crowded. At the end of the day it’s more important that we maintain small class sizes. If I’m choosing between making sure all students in the county have small classes and us getting a new building it’s only fair to pick the other kids,” said Mrs. Moore, who teaches Theater and Freshman English at The Brook.

However, most students disagree and would rather get a new building. Senior Kai Phillips is one of these students. “I think Springbrook’s building should definitely be renovated because there is out of date air conditioning and there are still classrooms that don’t have Prometheans. They still have to deal with chalkboards.” 

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New $1.8 billion Montgomery County Public Schools proposal aims to combat overcrowding