As work continues on the new Seneca Valley High School, there has been a bit of funding crisis between the Board of Education and the County Executive over a proposed expansion of the programs to be offered at the newly constructed $138.4 million high school rising in Germantown.
The crisis has been over the Board of Education’s request for an addition $7.5 million in the FY 2019-2024 Capital Improvements Program for the construction of the master-planned shell on the fourth floor of the new building that will accommodate the expansion of additional Career and Technology Education (CTE) programs at Seneca Valley High School. The new programs will transform the school into an UpCounty hub for career readiness vocational programs. The only other similar CTE hub is Thomas Edison High School of Technology in Wheaton.
County Executive Marc Elrich’s recommended fiscal year 2020 capital budget, which was released in January, did not fund the Board’s request for an additional $45 million which included the $7.5 million earmarked for the expansion of CTE programs at Seneca Valley 2.0. The construction of the new school was never in danger, but it was the funding of the expanded CTE programs which the County Executive eliminated.
At Monday night’s Board of Education meeting, the Board unanimously approved a resolution which would shuffle funding from other approved projects to ensure that the proposed CTE program funding would be continued and be the necessary changes to the construction work to accommodate the new programs would continue.
“Our vision for the Seneca Valley High School project is to increase access to countywide Career and Technology Education programs and provide an UpCounty hub for the Career and Technology Education program for Montgomery County Public Schools,” read the Board of Education’s resolution regarding the funding.
“In order to ensure the expansion of the Career and Technology Education program when the revitalization/expansion of Seneca Valley High School is complete, the funds for this modification must be approved before July 1,” said the resolution.
MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith recommended that school board moved $2 million allocated for restroom renovations, $2.5 million from “planned life-cycle asset replacement” and $3 million from roof replacement projects countywide over three years for the Seneca Valley project.
At Monday night’s meeting, Smith said that the Board would work to make sure the funds being reallocated to Seneca Valley will be put back into the projects being shelved as soon as feasible. “It is our intention to put these monies back into the specific funds, but we just need to absolutely commit to Seneca Valley, so we don’t miss deadlines and miss the opportunity to add to the career and technical education opportunities there,” said Smith.
“As to Seneca Valley,” said District 3 Board Member Pat O’Neill, “when you look at the unbelievable structure going up — it would be foolhardy not to do this project. When it comes to Seneca Valley, you also have to consider the state of the old facility. You cannot salvage that facility. We are going from 1,200 kids to 2,400 kids, and the career piece will impact kids in the UpCounty for years to come. It is expensive, but $7.5 million in the scope of this entire project is small.”
“This difficult decision is necessary to support the full implementation of this major project,” wrote Smith in the memo to the Board regarding the resolution to shift funding. “Because of the importance of the countywide projects to support our facility infrastructure, we will advocate for the restoration of these funds by the County Council. We hope to implement the planned work in the Restroom Renovations, Planned Life-cycle Asset Replacement, and Roof Replacement projects if additional funds are available through the budget process.”
Last Thursday night, the Board of Education visited Seneca Valley High School as part of the regular rotation to meeting with the Seneca Valley PTA Cluster. At that meeting, the board was asked by parents to make sure that the CTE funding would be restored to create the UpCounty hub for career readiness.
At the PTA cluster meeting, Seneca Valley Principal Dr. Marc Cohen discussed the additional programs which will be offered in the new building. “When many of our students leave high school, they will leave with an industry credential in a field that they are either interested in studying or a vocation that they are hoping to make their job,” said Cohen.
A list of the new programs that will be added to the Seneca Valley curriculum includes; Construction and Development, which means carpentry, electricity, HVAC, plumbing, architecture and design, and construction management; Project Lead the Way, which Cohen said was one of the premiere pre-engineering programs in the country; Law Enforcement and Homeland Security. He said that the Seneca Valley would be adding Code.org and cybersecurity in conjunction with Montgomery College. He said that a Hospitality Management and Tourism program and Apprenticeship Maryland program were also being considered.
The new school, once completed will be a massive four-story building centered on the area of land currently occupied by the football stadium. The building will be 440,000 square-feet and will be the largest school in the state of Maryland in terms of size. It will have a capacity of 2,400 students, nearly double the current enrollment of 1,278 students.
The increased capacity to Seneca Valley High School provides the opportunity to address projected overutilization of nearby Clarksburg and Northwest high schools through student reassignments in the future. The new school will replace a school which was built in 1974.
The new high school is expected to be completed and ready for students in the fall of 2020, while the demolition of the current school and construction of athletic fields are scheduled for completion by the fall of 2021.
Top: The new Seneca Valley High School is being constructed. This view of the new high school being built on the grounds of the old football stadium and fields is from across Great Seneca Highway.
Video: Work continues on the construction of the new school.
Next: The top levels of the new school can be seen from atop the hill at Wisteria Drive across Germantown Road.
Next: The new school will be 440,000-square-feet — the largest in the State of Maryland. It will increase the capacity of the Seneca Valley High School to 2,400 students.
Next: Seneca Valley High School Principal Dr. Marc Cohen addresses the Board of Education and members of the Seneca Valley PTA Cluster at a meeting held at Seneca Valley on Thursday, February 21.
Next: The new high school is expected to be completed and ready for students in the fall of 2020, while the demolition of the current school and construction of athletic fields are scheduled for completion by the fall of 2021.
Photos by Germantown Pulse, video courtesy SVHS 2.0 twitter @THENEWSVHS.