What happened at last night’s Meeting on Schools and the White Flint 2/Rock Spring Master Plans

What happened at last night’s Meeting on Schools and the White Flint 2/Rock Spring Master Plans

It was a packed house at WJ last night as Gwen Wright, Glenn Kreger, Nkosi Yearwood, and Pam Dunn from Montgomery  Planning and Bruce Crispell from MCPS carefully explained how they plan for schools and listened to passionate comments from the audience.

Councilmember Roger Berliner and Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson opened the meeting. They both reminded everyone that the Master Planning process for both White Flint 2 and Rock Spring are at the beginning stages and cheered this collaboration occurring at the front end of the process.

Here are some highlights from the very informative presentation.

The planning process is long and complex with a great deal of public engagement. A master plan includes land use and zoning recommendations, transit and bikeways, parks, schools, public safety/emergency services, and an implementation plan.  The White Flint 2 sector plan should go before the council for review and adoption in early 2017.

Enrollment growth in the WJ Cluster has been phenomenal. For example, Garrett Park ES has grown from 446 students in 2007 to 807 students this school year. WJ increased by 339 students. Total growth in the cluster from 2007 to 2015 resulted in an increase 1,242 of students.


Despite renovations and expansions in many of the cluster schools, projected enrollment numbers will result in schools bursting at the seams.. For example, Tilden MS is projected to have 1,200 students by 2020.  WJ is projected is to have 2,798 students by 2021, 463 more than its capacity.

Options for increasing school capacity include reopening a closed schools (Alta Vista, Montrose, Arylawn, Kensington), constructing a new school at a future school site (White Flint Mall site), purchasing land for a school, considering nontraditional options (urban designed school.)

The enrollment surge is caused by turnover of existing homes rather than new development. For example, a review of 4,934 high rise units in the WJ Cluster showed a student generation rate of .039 for elementary, .012 for middle, and .016 for high school. That means 100 units would generate 4 elementary school students. More specifically, PerSei yielded 4 elementary students, 0 middle school students, 1 high school student.

MCPS’s role in the master planning process includes providing student enrollment projects, requesting a school site be designated when justified, and providing data for use in the Subdivision Staging Policy. (SSP.)

SSP defines school adequacy and set the rules for conducting the Annual School Test for the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. The kick off for the next SSP is October 16.

MCPS has redone how they calculate new student generation, now using real data. Fore example, multi family low to mid rise developments have a new student generation rate of .077.

A development impact tax is assessed on new residential and commercial buildings as well as additions to commercial buildings. This tax goes to MCPS and represents 90% of the cost of a student seat generated by a new unit. For example, a single-family detached home has a school impact tax of $26,827 and a multifamily high-rise unit has a school impact tax of $5,412. Last year the school impact tax raised $45 million and to date this year, has raised $32 million.

The School Facility Payment stays in the cluster and is triggered when schools are over 105% of capacity. In 2014, in the WJ Cluster, the School Facility Payment generated $237,600 and to date in 2015, $577,684.

Many of the questions and comments from the audience received applause and cheers. The room full of people clapped enthusiastically when a parent in the audience said he believed schools are getting too big to properly teach students and when another parent suggested that schools are going downhill. The question “Why aren’t we getting a new school each year from the impact taxes?” received great applause.

For another take on the meeting, here’s a Bethesda Beat article.

Amy Ginsburg


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