WASHINGTON — Montgomery County Public Schools are seeing growth both inside the classroom and outside of it, according to new data released by the county.
This year marks the highest enrollment Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) has seen, with enrollment numbers increasing by more than 2,600 students to 156,455. And to accommodate the continuing surge, the county is embarking on an ambitious building and renovation effort.
The increasing enrollment is due to rising birthrates and migration to the area, said Bruce Crispell, director of long-range planning for the school system. Montgomery County is “a very prosperous county with a lot of job opportunities, and they come for the school reputation too,” he said.
Other counties in the area, particularly Fairfax, are increasing for similar reasons, Crispell said. Fairfax County’s enrollment this year reached 185,538, almost 32,000 more than Montgomery, which remains the largest area county.
Surprisingly, the use of portables, or “relocatables,” according to the county, has decreased slightly despite the increasing numbers. Since 2007 the number of portables in use has fluctuated, but hovered around 400, Crispell said. Last year, students had classes in 404 relocatables, up from the previous year’s 382. This school year, the number dropped back to 381.
Just over 87 percent of these portables are in use at the elementary school level, versus the 7 percent in use in middle schools and the just over 5 percent in high schools.
Howard, Anne Arundel, Frederick and Baltimore Counties are also seeing increasing enrollment, along with several other counties. Prince George’s and Baltimore City both decreased in enrollment, with Baltimore City’s decreases at rates comparable to Montgomery’s increases, according to a report released by Montgomery County.
Four Montgomery County schools are scheduled to open within the next five years to help ease overcrowding in the county: Clarksburg/Damascus Middle School in Clarksburg, Bethesda-Chevy Chase Middle School #2 in Kensington, Richard Montgomery Elementary School #5 in Rockville and Northwest Elementary School #8 in Germantown.
Within the same period of time, 13 schools throughout the county are scheduled for “revitalization/expansion,” according to Montgomery County data.
One of the new schools is causing controversy within the B-CC cluster community. The location of Bethesda-Chevy Chase Middle School #2, the temporary name for the second middle school in the B-CC cluster, has raised concerns. The school is set to open in August 2017 in Rock Creek Hills Local Park, and construction starts in the next few days.
The new school will be on land formerly used for Kensington Junior High, but the site size raised concerns for some community members.
The land available for the new school is not the same size used for the previous school, because some land is no longer available. The county addressed this concern and others in a letter to the community in May meant to “clear up” citizens’ fears about the new location.
In the letter, MCPS’ Chief Operating Officer Andrew Zuckerman assured citizens that though the land size is smaller than the county guidelines, it has been designed with “a smaller footprint to maximize the usable acreage and provide all the site requirements to support the [school].”
He also mentioned classroom sizes will meet the county standards and that pedestrian and traffic safety plans were reviewed and approved.
Zuckerman assured the community that Bethesda-Chevy Chase Middle School #2’s athletic facilities will be “comparable to the facilities at Westland Middle School,” the already established B-CC school.
He said the attendance zone will be established next November, and the boundary advisory committee process will begin before it usually does in order to “allow more time for community input and deliberation.”