App for bus tracking, free AP testing and extended school year calendar in proposed MCPS budget

As she unveiled a new budget proposal for Montgomery County Public Schools, Superintendent Monifa McKnight said Monday that the Maryland school system had a piece of technology in the works.

“We will be investing in an app for families to track their child’s bus, so that they know where it is and when it’s coming,” McKnight said.

The app would be a $1.5 million piece of the spending plan and would allow families to see where the bus is located in real-time, similar to what an Uber user see when he orders a ride and watches the vehicle slowly move in his direction on the map.

McKnight said the overall budget plan for the school system that has 160,554 students and expects another 2,000 next year, is $3.15 billion, an increase of $235.4 million or 8% over the current budget.

A significant portion of the budget, $119.2 million, is dedicated to funding competitive salaries for more than 24,000 employees based on negotiated agreements that have already been reached.

“That’s what our employees deserve,” McKnight said. “That’s what we must do to bring and keep the best talent in America right here in Montgomery County.”

Because of the growth that’s expected in the school population, the budget has funding for an extra 238 full-time positions that will cost $14.9 million.

The spending plan includes $2.5 million that would go toward establishing two additional “innovative calendar schools,” which offer students extended school year calendars, adding 30 more days of learning.

Currently, the county’s school system has two such schools in Silver Spring — Arcola Elementary School and Roscoe Nix Elementary School.

“We must insist upon innovating and instructing our students in new and different ways,” McKnight said.

About $3.4 million would be included in the budget so that all tuition, fees and assessments could be free for students in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs.

“This investment will ensure that cost is not a barrier to these advanced programs,” the school system said in a statement.

Additionally, the budget calls for the following:

  • $2.1 million for more classrooms for prekindergarten children with disabilities;
  • $1.8 million for expansion of the College Tracks advising network to five more schools to help students navigate the college application process
  • $591,000 for the expansion of dual-language immersion to three schools — two in Spanish and one in Chinese;
  • $100,000 to increase partnerships with hospitals, day cares and outreach centers to provide more early childhood literacy skills.

The budget will next be considered by the Montgomery County Board of Education, which will hold public hearings on Wednesday, Jan. 11, and Tuesday, Jan. 17. Budget workshops also will be held in January.

Once the board approves a budget, it will be sent to the Montgomery County Council for approval in late May.

WTOP’s Colleen Kelleher contributed to this story.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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