Earlier this week, Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jack Smith released his boundary recommendation for the new Clarksburg elementary school scheduled to open at the beginning of the next school year.
Construction on the new school, which will be located at 22500 Sweetspire Drive in Clarksburg, on the 9.8-acre lot adjacent to the Clarksburg Village Center shopping center. Once completed the school is expected to have a capacity of 741 students in grades K through 5 and will be part of the Clarksburg High School Cluster.
The new school will address the student enrollment growth at schools in the Clarksburg Cluster, primarily due to new home construction in the Arora Hills and Clarksburg Village communities. Revised student enrollment projections indicate that Cedar Grove Elementary School will exceed capacity by 193 students and Wilson Wims Elementary School will exceed capacity by 594 students by the 2024–2025 school year.
In the spring, the Board of Education convened a Boundary Advisory Committee create a number of options for the boundaries which would make up the new school’s population. The Board of Education established the scope of the boundary study to include Cedar Grove and Wilson Wims elementary schools. According to Smith, the Committee provided six options.
Smith’s recommendation for the boundaries of the new school would reassign three neighborhood zones currently assigned to Wilson Wims ES, and reassign two zones currently attending Cedar Grove ES to Wims ES.
The Board of Education will vote on accepting Dr. Smith’s recommendation at a future meeting.
The areas attending the new school, if superintendent’s recommendation is upheld, would run from Ridge Road west to Little Seneca Parkway and the area north of Centerfield Way and Morning Star Drive to Arora Hills Drive, to the 22600 block Winding Woods Way and Dogwood Hills Drive.
The neighborhoods currently assigned to Cedar Grove ES which would be reassigned to Wims ES would include the streets between Skylark Road, and Snowden Farm Parkway to Piedmont Road.
Smith also recommends that the new school open with Grades K–4 in September 2019, and that students currently in fourth grade at Wims and Cedar Grove elementary schools would remain at those schools for the 2019-2020 school year, rather than move to a new school for fifth grade. Beginning with the 2020–2021 school year, the new school would serve Grades K–5.
“I commend the work of the Clarksburg Village Site #2 Elementary School Boundary Advisory Committee,” wrote Smith in his recommendation. “I carefully considered the option evaluations, the position papers submitted by the Cedar Grove PTA and Wilson Wims Elementary School PTA and Asian Pacific American Student Achievement Action Group, as well as input received from the community at large.”
“This boundary recommendation will maintain diverse student bodies at all three schools,” wrote Smith. “Given that the current demographic profiles for Cedar Grove and Wilson Wims elementary schools are within 11.3 percent range of each other, none of the boundary options result in large-scale shifts of the demographic profiles of the current schools or create a completely different demographic profile in the New School. The current FARMS participation rates for Cedar Grove and Wilson Wims elementary schools, which are 9.7 and 10.7 percent, respectively, are lower than the countywide average for elementary schools of 39.1 percent in the 2017–2018 school year.”
“Similarly, the current ESOL rates for the Cedar Grove and Wilson Wims elementary schools for the 2017–2018 school year also are lower than the countywide elementary school average of 25.1 percent, at 12.2 and 10.1, respectively,” he said.
“At this time, there are no new housing developments planned for this section of the county; therefore, significant student enrollment increases are not expected to continue, as has been the experience for the past several years at these schools. The enrollment projections indicate slight increases for the six years; however, as noted previously, there are more students than there is capacity; therefore, my recommendation will need to leave one or more schools slightly greater than capacity for the six-year planning period.”
Smith went on “This recommendation addresses the overutilization at both Cedar Grove and Wilson Wims elementary schools, which was one of the primary goals for the opening of the new school. This option reduces the student enrollment at Cedar Grove Elementary School to a level that will allow the school to operate with a utilization rate of 80 to 100 percent. Although the option leaves the new school and Wilson Wims Elementary School with utilization rates higher than the desired range of 80 to 100 percent, these schools were designed with current educational standards and have the core facilities to accommodate the projected space deficits.”
He also said that Option 2 which is his recommendation maximizes the number of walkers for Clarksburg Village Site #2 Elementary School while maintaining the current walkers at Wilson Wims Elementary School. “The boundaries align with major roadways when possible while respecting the request of the communities to stay together by reassigning the area of Arora Hills (Zones CG8 and CG9) from Cedar Grove Elementary School to Wilson Wims Elementary School,” he wrote.
Smith said that Option 1, which was put forth by the Boundary Study Committee, and was championed by the Cedar Grove ES PTA because it does not reassign the Cedar Grove neighborhoods to Wims ES and maintains all current students at Cedar Grove, was not “fiscally responsible” because it would force Wilson Wims ES to operate at significantly less than capacity while Cedar Grove would remain at over capacity.
“If Option 1 were implemented,” wrote Smith, “Cedar Grove Elementary School would operate with a space deficit in the range of 193 to 218 seats, while Wilson Wims Elementary School would operate with 184 to 223 seats available throughout the 6-year planning period. The space deficit at Cedar Grove Elementary School and space availability at Wilson Wims Elementary School are similar, and the schools are geographically adjacent to each other. My recommendation, Option 2, not only creates a diverse student body that maximizes walkers but it also efficiently utilizes our facilities and resources. Therefore, I cannot support Option 1.”
According to MCPS spokesman Derek Turner, the process for the approval of the boundary recommendation will parallel the FY 2020 Capital Improvements Program budget which was also introduced this week.
The Board of Education will consider Dr. Smith’s recommendations at work sessions on Nov. 1 and Nov. 15. The Board will hold public hearings on the recommendation on Friday, Nov. 8 and Monday, Nov. 12. An additional public hearing will be scheduled for Monday, Nov.19 if alternatives are offered at the Nov. 15 work session. All hearings will begin at 6:00 pm. and will be held at the Carver Educational Services Center, 850 Hungerford Drive in Rockville.
The Board will approve a CIP amendment and the boundary recommendation request on Tuesday, Nov. 27. For more information on the hearings and to sign up to speak, visit the Board of Education website.
Top: The view of what will be the front of the new elementary school in Clarksburg in Clarksburg Village at 22500 Sweetspire Drive.
Next: A map of Dr. Smith’s recommendation to the Board of Education for the boundary of the new elementary school in Clarksburg which is slated to open in September 2019.
Next: A close up the area which, if Dr. Smith’s recommendation is approved, will make up the students of the new elementary school.
Next: The construction work continues on the new school, this is the view from Snowden Farm Parkway and Newcut Road, adjacent to the Clarksburg Village shopping center.
Photos by Germantown Pulse. Maps courtesy MCPS.