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BOE Approves $1.73B CIP; Affirms Seneca Valley Revitalization

OKs New Clarksburg Elementary School and Addition to McAuliffe Elementary, Delays Construction of New Northwest School

The long-awaited Seneca Valley High School revitalization and expansion project has been reaffirmed by the Montgomery County Board of Education with the approval of a $1.73 billion six-year Capital Improvements Program (CIP) request for Montgomery County Public Schools at a meeting held Monday night.

The Board’s Fiscal Year 2017–2022 request also includes ten new classroom addition projects — six in elementary schools and four in secondary schools — and a new elementary school in the Clarksburg cluster. The CIP request keeps on schedule many other projects that will add capacity to schools and increases funding for countywide infrastructure projects, including Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning replacement and numerous other infrastructure needs.

In the upcounty Germantown area, the board has said that the Seneca Valley High School revitalization/expansion project will remain on schedule to open in August 2019. The BOE is accelerating by one year the timeline for the project at S. Christa McAuliffe Elementary School in Germantown, which has one of the largest space deficits in the district.

The BOE also voted to delay the construction of a new elementary school in the Northwest cluster for two years to offset increases in other areas.

The Board’s CIP request also adds one new school, an elementary school in Clarksburg that would open in August 2019. The CIP also maintains the timeline for the previously approved Clarksburg/ Damascus middle school opening in August 2016.

“This CIP is an investment in our students and our future,” said Board President Patricia O’Neill. “As we balance our dramatic facility needs with the fiscal realities we are facing in our state and county; we know that we must continue to invest in our facilities if we are going to keep up with our growth and provide all of our students with modern, safe classrooms where they can learn and grow. We have serious funding challenges ahead that we must address, and we will need help from Gov. Hogan and the legislature.”

A new six-year CIP is approved every two years and includes investments in four general categories—capacity projects, such as new schools and classroom additions; revitalization/expansion projects that upgrade and expand existing schools; infrastructure improvements; and technology.

The Board’s CIP request represents an increase of nearly $185 million over the current CIP (FY 2015-2020). It includes $345.6 million in expenditures for FY 2017.

The request will now 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 Council will consider the Board’s CIP request in the spring, with final approval scheduled for May 2016.

Interim Superintendent Larry Bowers submitted a $1.72 billion CIP recommendation on October 28. The Board’s requested CIP is about $12 million higher than Bowers’ recommendation because of changes the Board made based on community input and districtwide need. The Board voted to add $11 million to complete an additional 24 classrooms at Wheaton High School, increase the investment in replacing aging HVAC systems to $40 million from the superintendent’s $30 million and added another $6 million to assist schools with aging infrastructure.

To offset the increases, the Board voted to reduce the expenditure of about $15 million intended for a new elementary school in the Northwest cluster and delay that project for two years to an opening date of August 2019. Due to enrollment changes in that cluster, the new elementary school is not immediately needed.

Public hearings on the CIP were held on November 9 and 12, attracting dozens of students, staff, parents, and community members. Much of the testimony focused not only on space shortages but the growing need to replace aging buildings and infrastructure.

“We are approving a substantial CIP request today but, even if it is fully funded, it won’t meet all of the needs we have,” said Michael Durso, vice president of the Board. “Many of our schools are operating well above their capacity limits, and we cannot provide our students and staff with the learning environments they deserve unless we receive additional funds from the county and the state.”

The Board’s CIP request also includes an additional $17 million, above the approved CIP, in the Technology Modernization project to fund new technology purchases, continue the Chromebook rollout plan over the next six years, and fund 16 positions that were reallocated from the operating budget to the capital budget.

Enrollment in MCPS this school year is 156,674 students, a one-year increase of more than 2,800 students. Since 2007, MCPS enrollment has increased by 18,929 students, mostly at the elementary school level. In that time, more than 14,000 seats have been added through construction projects, but there are still significant space deficits throughout the district.

Photos by Germantown Pulse.