Moratorium Damages County’s Competitiveness and Affordability, Fails to Fix School Capacity Shortfalls.

Below you’ll find some highlights from a blogpost from Planning Board Chairman Casey Anderson. I encourage you to read the entire post, which includes lots of informative charts and tables.

1. New development is not driving school overcrowding.

With the possible exception of Clarksburg, the surge in school enrollment faced by MCPS in recent years is attributable to turnover in housing built decades ago.

2. Moratoria have failed to solve the overcrowding problem and cut off a source of funds to build schools.

Some argue that even though turnover is largely responsible for overcrowded schools, the moratorium serves a useful purpose in generating political pressure to solve school capacity shortfalls, and that the threat of a moratorium will force elected officials to focus on the issue.

The short answer is we tried it and it didn’t work. The Walter Johnson, Blair, Northwood, and Einstein clusters all went into moratorium in July 2019 despite real estate developers warning that housing development projects in these areas would be delayed or killed. The deadline came and went, the projects were put on ice, and no funding for capacity expansions was accelerated from any source.

A moratorium also makes it more difficult for MCPS to deal with their capacity issues because impact taxes help fund the cost of capacity projects. The Planning Board has proposed adding additional payments in overutilized clusters that would require higher payments (utilization premium payments) in more crowded school clusters, but the idea is the same: new development pays more than its “share” and stopping development cuts off a needed supply of funds for the school system’s other needs.

The fact that moratoria are allowed to take effect despite their impact on development reveals the flaw in an implicit premise of the moratorium policy — namely that real estate developers will find a way to get schools built rather than see their business grind to a halt. The truth is that developers often operate in multiple jurisdictions, and they raise money to finance their projects from investors who are choosing among opportunities in every part of the country and even the world. Developers don’t like seeing their projects held up after they have spent time trying to get them lined up, but ultimately most of them don’t need to be here because they can acquire land to develop somewhere else. Montgomery County taxpayers have more to lose by stopping new housing construction than real estate developers, school board members, or any other group.

3. We are not producing enough housing – and moratoria make the housing supply problem worse.

Our school impact fees, and moratorium policy are damaging our ability to provide the housing our residents and economy need.

The reasons for our lagging housing production are many — including high costs of materials, shortages of skilled labor, and constraints on the availability of land suitable for development — but impact fees for schools are certainly a contributor.

A comparison of Montgomery County’s rules to the approach taken by our peers and competitors in the region is telling. We have the highest school impact payments in the greater Washington region except for Loudoun County, which is in a stage of its evolution where greenfield development is the norm.

See what Woodward High School is going to look like

Charles W. Woodward High School will be a holding facility for Northwood High School while Northwood HS undergoes a renovation/replacement at their current site from September 2023 to August 2025.

Woodward High School will then be reopened September 2025. MCPS Division of Capital Planning will start the process of a boundary study to determine who will go to Woodward High School 18 months prior to the opening of school.

The size of the school will be 27.31 acres (for reference, Bethesda-Chevy Chase HS is 16.36 acres, Walter Johnson HS is 30.86 acres). However, significant topographic change within the site limits the use of flat area for site amenities.

The new Woodward HS building will be designed for a capacity of 2,700 students.

The proposed building is terraced into the existing grades to minimize excavation and has a 3-story portion along Old Georgetown Road and a 4-story portion near athletic fields

Construction is expected to start in January 2021, if all approvals are granted by the Montgomery County Planning Board (there’s work to do there).

The end of the moratorium!

Fabulous news! The Planning Board will receive the FY21 annual school test on Thursday, and the current moratorium for the Walter Johnson cluster will come to an end. Here is the staff memo. This means that pending North Bethesda developments, ranging from Twinbrook to Rock Spring, could move forward!

From the staff report:

The test also finds three additional clusters – Montgomery Blair, Albert Einstein, and Walter Johnson clusters – to be ‘open conditionally’ as shown in Table 2. The projected enrollment for the high schools at these clusters indicate that they will exceed the test’s utilization standard in the 2025-2026 school year as well, but the enrollment burden at these schools are expected to be relieved by approved capital projects at other high schools – Northwood HS and Woodward HS – through future student reassignments.

County passes capital budget that includes funding for Woodward re-opening

The Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to approve the County’s $5.8 billion Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Operating Budget and a $4.4 billion FY21-26 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) to fund school construction, infrastructure improvements and community projects. The Council’s focus throughout its budget work was on providing continuity of services for County government and residents.

“The Council’s approach to this budget was unlike any other,” said Council President Sidney Katz. “We had a singular goal—continuity of service. Like households across our community, we had to limit our spending and control budget growth. The $5.8 billion operating budget and the $4.4 billion capital budget provides stability for our residents and our workforce, while we await a clearer picture of expenses and revenues that will emerge during the summer and fall. We all recognize that there will be more work to do to meet the ongoing public health and financial needs caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The County’s $4.4 billion Capital Improvements Program provides funding to address the County’s most urgent building needs. Some items of note in the CIP include keeping the reopening of Woodward High School and the Northwood High School Addition/Facility Upgrade on schedule. Thank you to the County Council for keeping this vital project on track.

Our letter to County Council about funding the opening of Woodward

Dear Councilmember:

On behalf of the 2,000 residents, businesses, and property owners who are members of Friends of White Flint, we ask you to ensure that the re-opening of Woodward High School remains on track so that the Pike District/White Flint area can get out of moratorium July 1.

While we appreciate the many budgetary issues caused by the economy and pandemic, it is essential that the Pike District/White Flint area get out from under the damaging building moratorium caused by the capacity issues at Walter Johnson High School. In order for both White Flint and Montgomery County to fulfill their economic potential, Woodward High School must open on schedule and not be delayed. As you know, the residential development moratorium prevents the County from collecting much-needed school impact taxes, taxes which account for a significant portion of the school construction budget. There are multiple developments ready to build but who cannot start construction due to the moratorium.

We ask you to support the construction of a holding facility at Woodward for Northwood High School to use between September 2023 to August 205 and then reopening Woodward High School after Northwood departs. Funding a new Woodward High School will lift the moratorium in the White Flint/Pike District area and address the over-capacity issues at Walter Johnson High School.


Thwarting the county’s transit-oriented development strategy by limiting construction in the White Flint/Pike District area with a continuing building moratorium would be short-sighted and devastating. As many councilmembers have noted, fulfilling the incredible promise of the 2010 White Flint sector plan is crucial for the economic vitality of Montgomery County. Redevelopment cannot occur in the White Flint area while the moratorium is in place, so it is important for all of Montgomery County that Woodward High School is fully funded to lift the moratorium on July 1.

Thank you in advance for ensuring the economic health of Montgomery County, supporting transit-oriented development, and allowing the promise of the White Flint sector plan to be fulfilled by funding the rebuilding of Woodward High School using the original timetable.

Amy Ginsburg, Executive Director

A news roundup

Local Covid-19 Statistics

Courtesy of Delegate Marc Korman

4,800+ businesses, nonprofits apply for county COVID-19 emergency grants 

More than 4,800 small businesses and nonprofits had applied for emergency grants from Montgomery County‘s $20 million Public Health Emergency Grant Program. The county expects money will begin to go out to approved applicants towards the end of this week. The County Council is scheduled to vote tomorrow to add $5 million to the fund.
At a press conference on Friday, Governor Larry Hogan said that out of $9.3 million in a state Layoff Aversion Fund to help avoid job cuts at small businesses, $8 million had been distributed. He also reported that a $50 million grant fund for businesses and nonprofits had received more than 20,200 applications, and that a $75 million loan fund had received more than 9,100 applications. Both funds have stopped taking applications. More.

Walter Johnson ranked sixth best high school in Maryland and No. 344 in the country

Five Montgomery County High Schools are ranked among the top 10 public schools in the state according to a report released Monday. U.S. News and World Report ranked Poolesville High School as the best school in Maryland and 90th best school in the country.

Walt Whitman in Bethesda follows Poolesville as second best in the state and No. 105 in the country. Wootton High School in Rockville was ranked third best in the state and No. 128 in the country. Churchill High School in Potomac ranked fourth in the state and No. 133 in the country. Walter Johnson in Bethesda ranked sixth in the state and No. 344 in the country. Bethesda-Chevy Chase ranked No. 13 in the state and No. 567 nationally, while Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville ranked No. 14 in the state and No. 604 in the country. Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg ranked No. 20 in the state and No. 807 nationally.

No letter grades for fourth marking period 

Montgomery County Public Schools MCPS) said on its website yesterday that it won’t assign letter grades for the fourth marking period. However, grades for the third marking period, which ended on Friday, will be given using the traditional grading system. Report cards will be mailed home starting April 27. The last day of the school year is June 15. Currently, the state has closed all public school buildings through May 15. Today, April 20, was the first day of the next phase of the MCPS online learning plan. Read details about this and more on the MCPS website.

Explore Montgomery County from home   

From virtual events to online activities, there are a variety of ways to discover Montgomery County from the comfort of your own home via the internet. You and your family can go on a farm tour, participate in musical jam sessions, see art exhibits, visit a lockhouse, hear lectures, learn about nature and try fun new activities. Visit MoCo at Home to learn more.

White Flint ES sites remain in contention

From Bethesda Beat

Montgomery County Public Schools has narrowed a list of potential sites for a new elementary school in the Bethesda area to three.

The remaining three sites under consideration are:

  • WMAL on Greentree Road
  • Two White Flint properties that have been called White Flint North and White Flint South.

The three remaining possible locations are all on the same sites as other building projects, as the school district is pushing for more innovative school buildings that take advantage of compact sites.

White Flint sites remain in contention for new elementary school

From Bethesda Beat

Montgomery County Public Schools is studying where to open another elementary school in about six years to relieve crowding in the Walter Johnson and Bethesda-Chevy Chase high school clusters.

Seth Adams, the director of MCPS’ Department of Facilities Management, announced Tuesday at the start of a community meeting at North Bethesda Middle School that the list of 10 choices has been cut to six.

More than 100 people attended the meeting to hear the latest on the search for a school site.

The four sites being removed from the list are Ayrlawn Park on Oakmont Avenue, Alta Vista on Beech Avenue, Rocking Horse on Macon Road, and Montrose Center on Academy Way. Adams said there are challenges with those sites — particularly their current and future use.

The remaining sites under consideration (some of which have buildings now used for other reasons or unused) are:

Grosvenor Elementary School on Grosvenor Lane (a current holding facility for school construction projects)

Kensington Elementary School on Detrick Avenue

Lynnbrook Center on Lynnbrook Drive in East Bethesda (site of a former school)

WMAL on Greentree Road

Two White Flint properties. The last two properties have been called White Flint South and White Flint North, but there was some confusion at the end of Tuesday’s meeting about whether the correct address was considered for one of them. MCPS and DLR Group, a school design firm helping with the site selection, will work on preparing a summary of the correct site, if needed.

https://bethesdamagazine.com/bethesda-beat/bethesda/four-sites-dropped-from-consideration-for-new-bethesda-school/?utm_source=Bethesda+Magazine+Master+List&utm_campaign=32f53f9768-Beat-02.19.20&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1bbe9df5d9-32f53f9768-104429903&mc_cid=32f53f9768&mc_eid=5825e45cb9

New sites proposed for elementary school in WJ-BCC Clusters

From Bethesda Beat

Montgomery County Public Schools has released an updated list of potential sites for a new elementary school in the Bethesda area. The recommendations are part of an elementary school capacity study for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Walter Johnson high school clusters.

The sites are:

  • Alta Vista Elementary School — Proposed development includes a three-story addition to a school on an MCPS-owned lot. The school is a former school that is currently closed but still owned by MCPS. There is space for only 70 parking spaces and limited playground space. The small 3.53-acre property does not have space for a baseball field and could not accommodate additional expansions in the future. Address: 5615 Beech Ave.
  • Ayrlawn Elementary School & Local Park — Existing school that closed in 1982 and is still owned by MCPS. Proposed development includes using a “small portion” of the adjacent park for parking. There are two softball fields on the property and room for about 96 parking spaces. Address: 5650 Oakmont Ave.
  • Grosvenor Elementary School — Existing facility that is currently used as a temporary school while other schools undergo major renovations or expansions. The site can accommodate about 100 parking spaces and playground space. The biggest drawback, according to MCPS, is it would no longer be available as a “holding school.” Address: 5701 Grosvenor Lane.
  • Kensington Elementary School — The school would sit on a 4-acre lot on Detrick Avenue. The site has room for 110 parking spaces, but not for a baseball field or play areas. Address: 10400 Detrick Ave.
  • Lynnbrook Center — Existing facility that is currently closed, but is still owned by MCPS. A portion of the building could be used as a day care center and the current site has a softball field and tennis courts. Outdoor play spaces would have to be split between the two ends of the school. There would be about 110 parking spaces. Address: 8001 Lynnbrook Drive.
  • Montrose Center — Existing facility that is currently closed, but is still owned by MCPS. There is space to accommodate 100 parking spots, but not outdoor play spaces. Address: 12301 Academy Way. 
  • Rocking Horse Road Center — The 18.7-acre site is large enough to accommodate a multitude of building designs. There would be 92 parking spaces and a softball field. The center is used by MCPS central office staff. Address: 4910 Macon Road.
  • White Flint North Site — The site is a bit constrained, according to MCPS, and would not have adequate room for outdoor play spaces. There would be approximately 100 parking spaces and separated student drop-off loops for buses and vehicles. Address: 11410 Woodglen Drive.
  • White Flint South Site — Another small site, there would not be adequate room for parking and play spaces. The property “attempts to utilize some of the acreage that was once part of the mall that has been demolished,” MCPS documents say. Address: 11301 Rockville Pike.
  • WMAL — On Greentree Road, the 4-acre property would not have space for a softball diamond, but could accommodate up to 114 parking spaces. Address: 7115 Greentree Road.

Last Night’s MCPS Boundary Analysis Meeting at WJ

From Montgomery Community Media

SKEPTICAL CROWD FILLS TWO ROOMS FOR BOUNDARY ANALYSIS MEETING

Montgomery County Public Schools had its largest boundary analysis meeting yet on Thursday night at Walter Johnson High School. A spokesperson for MCPS told MyMCMedia that about 650 people showed up to the meeting.

There were so many people, that the group was split up into two rooms so that two boundary meetings were happening at the same time. One large group met in Walter Johnson’s gymnasium, the other group met in the cafeteria.

Like previous meetings, attendees were put in small groups and they heard from leaders of WXY Architecture, the contractors conducting the MCPS Boundary Analysis Study. Throughout the evening, people sat in small groups and were given opportunities to talk amongst themselves.

At the end of the meeting, attendees were polled about the information they learned that evening. The results of the polls indicate that many parents are still skeptical about MCPS’ boundary study.

In the gymnasium, 44% of people said that they were still skeptical about the information that was presented that evening. In the cafeteria, this was also the most common answer, receiving 61% of the votes.

When polled about their view on undertaking a boundary study, in the gymnasium the most common answer, receiving 49% of the votes was “I am still skeptical of this process and wonder whether it needs to be done at this time.” This was also the most popular choice for the large group in the cafeteria, receiving 68% of the votes.

The final polling question asked attendees to rate on a 1 to 10 scale whether they agreed their concerns were adequately heard: in the gymnasium 30% voted “1,” meaning they didn’t agree at all.

This meeting was the last in a series of meetings MCPS organized about the boundary meeting as a part of the first phase of the analysis. The project will soon enter its second phase, and WXY Architecture will start testing ideas and metrics.

Tweet Recap of Walter Johnson Boundary Meeting

Here’s are some Tweets that recap what happened at Thursday night’s meeting:

Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM · 13h

THREAD: I’m at the @MCPS boundary analysis meeting tonight at Walter Johnson High and there are hundreds of people here—so many that two meetings are happening: one in the cafeteria, the other in the gym. For now, I’m in the gym. There’s 35 tables filled with people in here.

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Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM

Outside of the school I spoke to members of One Montgomery who are here as activists in support of the boundary analysis study.

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37:46 PM – Jan 23, 2020 · Walter Johnson High SchoolTwitter Ads info and privacySee Deirdre Byrne’s other Tweets

Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM · 13hReplying to @DeirdreByrneMCM

There were more signs left outside that were opposed to the boundary study.

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Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM

The tables are currently discussing what they believe should be included in the analysis in regard to school utilization.

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7:54 PM – Jan 23, 2020 · Walter Johnson High SchoolTwitter Ads info and privacySee Deirdre Byrne’s other Tweets

Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM · 13hReplying to @DeirdreByrneMCM

I’m told by @MCPS officials that about 650 people are here tonight. There are more people in the gymnasium than the cafeteria.

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Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM

Of all the boundary meetings @MCPS has had, this one is the largest.

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8:19 PM – Jan 23, 2020 · Walter Johnson High SchoolTwitter Ads info and privacySee Deirdre Byrne’s other Tweets

Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM · 13hReplying to @DeirdreByrneMCM

The groups are now discussing ideas they have about how school proximity can fit into @MCPS’ boundary analysis study.

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Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM

Here’s a look at the people in the cafeteria meeting. They are also currently talking about school proximity.

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8:30 PM – Jan 23, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacySee Deirdre Byrne’s other Tweets

Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM · 12hReplying to @DeirdreByrneMCM

The polling part has started and 44% of the gym attendees say they are still skeptical of the boundary study.

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Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM

49% of people say they are skeptical of the boundary study.

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8:44 PM – Jan 23, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacySee Deirdre Byrne’s other Tweets

Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM · 12hReplying to @DeirdreByrneMCM

30% of people say they don’t agree with the study; 16% fully agree.

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Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM

Now I’m back in the caf as this group is wrapping up discussion.

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8:49 PM – Jan 23, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacySee Deirdre Byrne’s other Tweets

Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM · 12hReplying to @DeirdreByrneMCM

61% of people in the caf say they are skeptical about what they learned.

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View image on Twitter

Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM

68% are still skeptical of the study. People cheered when the results when up.

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8:53 PM – Jan 23, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacySee Deirdre Byrne’s other Tweets

Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM · 12hReplying to @DeirdreByrneMCM

Here are people cheering at the polling result.

Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM

58% of people say they did not fee heard tonight in the caf.

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18:55 PM – Jan 23, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacySee Deirdre Byrne’s other Tweets

(Correction: The tweet above should say “feel heard” instead of “fee heard.” It should also say 57% instead of 58%.)

Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM · 12hReplying to @DeirdreByrneMCM

Again the crowd cheered at this result.

Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM

Q and A has started in the gym. Here’s a question about title 1 schools.9:58 PM – Jan 23, 2020 · Walter Johnson High SchoolTwitter Ads info and privacySee Deirdre Byrne’s other Tweets

Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM

Here’s a question that raises the idea of a lottery system for underperforming schools. This is an idea @MCPS is looking into.110:43 PM – Jan 23, 2020 · Walter Johnson High SchoolTwitter Ads info and privacySee Deirdre Byrne’s other Tweets

Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM

Here’s a question that questions the use of Ever-Farms for looking at school diversity. @MCPS said they are looking at other data to measure diversity.310:44 PM – Jan 23, 2020 · Walter Johnson High SchoolTwitter Ads info and privacySee Deirdre Byrne’s other Tweets

Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM

One man asks about @MCPS’ timeline for making a decision about changing boundaries. MCPS says WXY will submit their recommendation to @mocoboe in June and the School Board can make recommendations from there.110:45 PM – Jan 23, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacySee Deirdre Byrne’s other Tweets

Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM

The crowd cheers when a student asks how this data will help her receive a better education.210:58 PM – Jan 23, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacySee Deirdre Byrne’s other Tweets

Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM

One person asks how @MCPS is planning to hear from the voices of all students.10:59 PM – Jan 23, 2020 · Walter Johnson High SchoolTwitter Ads info and privacySee Deirdre Byrne’s other Tweets

Deirdre Byrne@DeirdreByrneMCM

One man asks about how @MCPS / WXY can be sure that the data that they are looking at leads to the best outcomes.11:00 PM – Jan 23, 2020 · Walter Johnson High SchoolTwitter Ads info and privacySee Deirdre Byrne’s other Tweets

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