CIP amendments to help deal with growing student population

Superintendent+Joshua+Starr+requested+an+additional+%24220.8+million+be+added+to+the+county%E2%80%99s+school+construction+budget.
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CIP amendments to help deal with growing student population

Superintendent Joshua Starr requested an additional $220.8 million be added to the county’s school construction budget.

Superintendent Joshua Starr requested an additional $220.8 million be added to the county’s school construction budget.

Pablo Roa

Superintendent Joshua Starr requested an additional $220.8 million be added to the county’s school construction budget.

Pablo Roa

Pablo Roa

Superintendent Joshua Starr requested an additional $220.8 million be added to the county’s school construction budget.

By Pablo Roa, Production Editor

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In an effort to address capacity issues caused by MCPS’s ever-growing student population, Superintendent Joshua Starr requested an additional $220.8 million be added to the county’s school construction budget on October 28. Less than a month later, the Montgomery County Board of Education (BOE) approved his proposal.

The BOE unanimously approved the amendments to the county’s six-year Capital Improvements Program (CIP) Nov. 17 after holding a work session and two public hearings on Starr’s recommandation. The BOE added an extra $2.5 million to Starr’s proposal for additional Planned Life-cycle Asset Replacement projects.

The BOE’s approval of Starr’s recommendation is a step in the right direction for those who hope to expedite school construction projects in MCPS, but final approval of the proposed amendments must be made by the state.

“Our space shortage is an urgent matter for our students, staff, parents and community members,” BOE President Philip Kauffman said in a Nov. 17 press statement. “We need to add space as quickly as possible not only to serve our current students, but to serve those we know are coming in the near future. Montgomery County Public Schools is Maryland’s largest, fastest growing district and we simply need more help from the state to meet our district’s construction needs.”

The BOE’s request for additional school construction funding is due to the fact that the student population in MCPS is growing at an unprecedented rate and the county is struggling to accommodate its students.

Enrollment in MCPS for the 2014-15 school year is at 154,230 students – an increase of nearly 3,000 from last year and an increase of 16,485 students since 2007. Not only is enrollment at an all-time high this year, but it is expected to continue growing and reach around 165,000 students by the 2020-21 school year.

According to the press statement, the additional $223 million that the BOE is requesting would allow 36 school construction projects to be completed sooner than currently approved, which would add thousands of much-needed classroom seats throughout MCPS. The request also includes several other projects intended to alleviate space shortages in MCPS and find the most efficient ways to use the space that is already available.

Starr and the BOE hope that an increase in school construction funding will reduce the county’s reliance on relocatable classrooms, known as portables, to accommodate the growing student body. The county currently uses 404 portables which – though a far cry from the 700 portables the county used in 2007 – is a number that MCPS hopes to diminish with new school construction projects.

“I think it is important to rebuild old schools and build new ones as well,” senior Francisco Noguera said. “Having an old school can be bad for the students since they have to go there every day, and they would have a much better time learning in a nice, clean and new building.”

The next step for the BOE is to submit the requested CIP amendements to Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and the Montgomery County Council for consideration. Leggett is expected to release his recommended CIP amendments for the county and for MCPS in mid-January. The County Council will then approve final CIP amendments in May.