Welcome news for Walter Johnston cluster schools, which are universally overcrowded, from MCPS interim superintendent Larry Bowers.
The Walter Johnson Cluster has experienced large enrollment increases during the past eight years, primarily driven by the sale of homes to younger families. Also, new development in the cluster has played a role, although by a significantly smaller amount than demographic changes in existing communities. In the future, the cluster will see substantial amounts of new housing associated with the adopted White Flint Sector Plan and the two new sector plans now getting underway, “Rock Springs” and “White Flint II.” In addition, the large WMAL property has been sold and will be redeveloped with new housing.
Superintendent Bowers has recommended that MCPS hold a roundtable discussion group with representatives of all Walter Johnson Cluster schools to gather input on a range of options to accommodate near-term and long-term enrollment increases. The roundtable would consider facility planning issues at all three school levels and include discussion of how closed elementary schools and the former Woodward High School facility may be utilized in the future. The scope of the roundtable would be the Walter Johnson Cluster and discussion of options would be confined to the current cluster area.
Here is a table that displays a list of school projects that have been completed or that are planned in the future.
In addition to the projects listed above, a feasibility study for a classroom addition is under way for Walter Johnson High School. Although options that could increase the capacity of the school up to 3,200 seats are being explored, no plan has been approved. The addition will be included as one of the options in the roundtable process. As part of the Tilden Middle School revitalization/expansion project, the Board of Education approved a plan to collocate Rock Terrace School, a special education school, with Tilden Middle School as part of the project.
Because most of the elementary schools will have a capacity of approximately 740 seats by the 2021- 2022 school year and Ashburton Elementary School will have a capacity of 881 seats, the strategy of adding onto existing elementary schools will have run its course. Updated school enrollment projections illustrate that even with the added capacity described above, most cluster elementary schools will be at or exceed capacity by the 2021- 2022 school year. Middle school enrollment also is projected to fill most of the expanded capacities of the two middle schools by the 2021-2022 school year. And of most concern, Walter Johnson High School is projected to exceed capacity by more than 500 students by the 2021- 2022 school year.
Among the options that will be considered will be the reopening of closed schools and construction of a new school(s) on a site(s) in the cluster:
o There are four closed elementary schools in the cluster, including the former Alta Vista, Arylawn, Kensington, and Montrose elementary schools.
o The former Grosvenor Elementary School is in the cluster and is used as a holding school for elementary schools undergoing revitalization/expansion projects.
o There is one future elementary school site in the Walter Johnson Cluster, located at the southern portion of the current White Flint Mall.
o There are no closed middle schools or future middle school sites.
o The former Woodward High School facility currently houses Tilden Middle School, but it is slated to become a holding center for secondary schools undergoing revitalization/expansion projects when Tilden Middle School is relocated to the Tilden Lane site at the completion of its revitalization/expansion in August 2020.