Bruce Crispell, Director of the Division of Long Range Planning for Montgomery County Public Schools, gave his forecast last night for how many students he expects the Rock Spring and White Flint 2 sector plans to generate. Also at the meeting at Luxmanor Elementary were other MCPS officials to outline the Walter Johnson cluster roundtable discussions, and the new Subdivision Staging Policy currently being reviewed by the County Planning Board.
The night got off to a rough start as technical difficulties prevented the detailed presentation from being projected onto the screen. Speakers had to then go forward with no Powerpoint slides. The presentation is promised to be on the Rock Spring and White Flint 2 pages on the Planning Department website at some point today.
Crispell's prediction for the mid-size alternative for Rock Spring is:
70 ES students
30 MS students
35 HS students
For the maximum 2400-unit build-out of Rock Spring, he forecasts:
All of those go into the Walter Johnson cluster.
For White Flint 2, a small portion of students will go into the Downcounty Consortium Cluster of schools:
Mid-size build-out (524 units):
Max build-out for the DCC (871 units):
In the Walter Johnson cluster for White Flint 2, the mid-size build-out option would generate:
The max build-out of White Flint 2 (4920 new units) would generate this many students in the WJ cluster:
The combined numbers for both clusters from White Flint 2 in mid-size scenario:
Max build-out for both clusters in White Flint 2:
Altogether, Crispell said the numbers are close to the threshold for dedicating an elementary school site, but not a middle school or high school. A resident asked if Crispell used the southwest generation rates, which tend to be higher than the rest of the County. He said those calculations are still in the works.
But he said these numbers should replace any previous forecasts. "These are pretty much hot off the press to me," Crispell said of his predictions last night. He added that he is including the WMAL site in his long range forecast, a separate one from the above data.
Crispell also outlined the process by which MCPS addresses the need for more capacity. First they examine if they can add on to an existing school in the plan area. If not, look at a boundary change to a school adjacent to the plan area. If that can't be done, they determine if they can add on to a building adjacent to the plan area. The last resort is to designate a school site for a new building.
"We are at the point where we need a new elementary school site," Crispell said last night. Walter Johnson High School is currently over 2400 students, he said, and MCPS is considering options including using the former Woodward campus as a high school again.
Crispell said there are "tons of [housing] units being planned in this area of the County," but added that in his opinion, "there's no way" there is enough demand for the number of units currently proposed.
Debbie Szyfer, senior planner in Crispell's division, said that a new elementary school could be fast-tracked in time to open in 2022. She said Walter Johnson HS is "the most critical right now. The middle schools we're taking good care of," with additions.
Unfortunately, the promised results of the WJ roundtable were not actually available last night. The roundtable report is instead expected to be posted online in the next 9 days, Szyfer said. That report will cover the approaches to the problems discussed by members of the roundtable from the WJ cluster, but will not make recommendations.
Actual recommendations will be made by new MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith after July 1, Szyfer said. Among the approaches discussed by the roundtable were reopening old schools, repurposing Woodward, and acquiring office park land. Other ideas that had little support included split sessions and online learning.
The roundtable schedule will be as follows:
June 8 "or later": Roundtable report posted online
October 13: Smith's recommendations will be released to the public
November 3: Board of Education will hold a worksession on the recommendations
Szyfer said the period between October 13 and November 3 will be a critical one for those in the community to make their voices heard. Whether you like the recommendations or hate them, it is very important that you let the BOE know either way, Szyfer advised.
November 10, 14: Public hearings on the recommendations (only 30-40 people can testify)
The BOE will make a final decision after those hearings.
Several members of the roundtable were in attendance at last night's meeting. One of them commended Crispell and Szyfer for doing something that hasn't been done before by MCPS. She said they took "the list of development within our cluster...and tried to do a 30 year analysis of what this would look like for our cluster." "We were pushed," Crispell said. He said that 30-year forecast showed a need for a high school with a capacity of 3500, a middle school of 2750 students, and 5500 seats at the elementary school level. Crispell noted that those numbers include the WMAL site, but not the latest Rock Spring and WF2 projections he released last night.
Crispell received a round of applause. Somewhat taken aback by a positive response from parents, he said, "Thank you. I don't usually get applauded for forecasts."
One resident expressed concern that middle school needs might end up not being addressed in the sector plans. "Those projections support another middle school," she said. "If we don't designate a site in one of these master plans, we'll never get it."
The president of the Luxmanor Civic Association challenged officials to be more transparent and communicate more closely with the community than they have in past White Flint discussions. Those past processes "truly haven't been transparent," she said. "We've had to hire police to patrol our streets because of what's been going on right now." She asked if the community could have more meetings and more open discussions as this process goes forward.
Both sector plans are slated to go the Planning Board this fall, and following board worksessions late in the year, to the County Council for approval in 2017, said Andrea Gilles, the lead planner for the Rock Spring plan.
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