Starr’s Capital Budget Includes B-CC High School Addition

Bethesda-Chevy Chase High SchoolMontgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr on Monday released a recommended $1.55 billion capital budget program that includes additions for Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and North Bethesda Middle School.

The schools, which MCPS planners say have experienced a large increase in students over the past 10 years, were the only two new projects added to the capital program, or CIP. Starr recommends a schools CIP every two years before County Executive Isiah Leggett comes out with his overall CIP.

Starr’s $1.55 billion recommendation is a $184 million increase compared to the current CIP for years 2013-2018. MCPS claims it would need $2.2 billion to meet all of its capital needs.

“I am hopeful that a solution can be found, but I have to develop my budget based on what I know, not on what I hope,” Starr said.

There are now 1,872 students enrolled at B-CC high school. That number is projected to grow to 2,000 by 2016 and 2,400 by 2023. The school’s current capacity is 1,692.

The addition project would be ready by 2017 and increase the school’s capacity to 2,399. The original target capacity number discussed in planning sessions was 2,200.

Starr’s recommendations also include an addition for North Bethesda Middle School in the Walter Johnson cluster. The school has 901 students with a capacity of 864 this year. The enrollment number is expected to surpass 1,000 in 2015 and hit 1,300 in 2023. The addition would also open in 2017 and mean a capacity for 1,208 students.

In his recommendations, Starr made a distinction between “addition” projects and “revitalization/expansion” projects, formerly known as “modernization” projects of existing buildings. No new revitalization/expansion projects were added to this year’s CIP.

“This was a very difficult decision, because I know the communities impacted by these delays have been waiting a long time for these projects to begin,” Dr. Starr said. “But as a steward of taxpayer dollars, I must use the available resources where they are needed most and will have the biggest impact.”

Plans for a new Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster middle school at Rock Creek Hills Local Park went unchanged, with a recommendation for funding in FY 2015 and completion in 2017.

A boundary study of the reassignment of elementary schoolers living on the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center base has been added to the recommendations. The recommendation is for that study to take place this winter.

Students from the base were recently switched from Bethesda Elementary School to Rosemary Hills Elementary School for grades K-2 and North Chevy Chase Elementary School for grades 3-6.

Those changes and other recent boundary changes were meant to ease overcrowding concerns at Bethesda Elementary, but MCPS has apparently been hit with a wave of transfer requests from families of kids who temporarily live on the base:

Officials at the Medical Center have expressed concern over the recently adopted school assignments. They report that families who temporarily reside at the Medical Center have enrolled their children in Bethesda Elementary School attendance for many years and disrupting this assignment would present a hardship for these families. This year families with elementary school students residing at the Medical Center were granted Change of School Assignments to Bethesda Elementary School. This provided the opportunity to review the school assignment for the Medical Center this year, without disrupting students enrolled at Bethesda Elementary School. Following the abbreviated boundary review, the superintendent’s recommendation would be provided for Board of Education action in spring 2014.

Dr. Starr’s recommendations will now be reviewed by the Montgomery County Board of Education, which will hold a CIP work session on Thursday, Nov. 7, at 6 p.m. The Board will then hold two public hearings on Monday, Nov. 11, and Thursday, Nov. 14. More information about how to register to testify at those hearings is available on the Board’s public participation website.

The Board is expected to approve a CIP request on Monday, November 18. That request will then be submitted to the County Executive and County Council for consideration.

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