Info from the Joint Rock Spring/White Flint 2 Planning Board Work Session on Schools

On February 16, the Planning Board held a joint Rock Spring and White Flint 2 Work Session to discuss schools. You can see the slides from the staff presentation here.

Some quick, interesting tidbits from this work session:

1) The projected enrollment of students from the Rock Spring, White Flint 2, and Grosvenor-Strathmore plans:  655 additional elementary students, 277 additional middle school students, and 377 additional high school students.

2) Including current homes and full build out of White Flint 1, Rock Spring, White Flint 2, and Grosvenor-Strathmore, there is a projected space deficit for 1,500 elementary school students, 900 middle school students, and 1,600 high school students.

3) Potential School Sites include:

White Flint 1 Sector Plan: White Flint Mall Site an Luttrell Site

White Flint 2 Sector Plan: Wilgus/Willco and Rocking Horse Road Center

Rock Spring Master Plan: Rock Spring Centre and Marriott

4) MCPS wants to reserve Rocking Horse Road Center for a either a middle or high school since it is an 18 acre site.


What Happened at Last Night’s White Flint 2 Planning Meeting on Schools

Okay.  The Planning Board just put up the presentations from last night’s meeting, so here is my long summary of what was discussed at last night’s White Flint 2/Rock Spring Planning Meeting on Schools. You can view the presentation here.

Here’s the calendar for the Sector Planning Process:

July 11, 2016     WF2 Community Meeting: Review Preliminary Draft PlaRecommendations

July 28, 2016   Preliminary Draft Plan Recommendations to PlanninBoard

September 2016  Staff Working Draft Plan to Planning Board

October 2016  Planning Board Public Hearing

October-December 2016  Planning Board Worksessions

January/February 2017  Transmit Plan to County Executive and County Council

Bruce Crispell from MCPS reported on the projected number of students that will be generated by White Flint 2 and Rock Spring. There are three possible development plans for each sector.  (You can learn more about the three options in White Flint 2 here.)

The WJ Cluster will have a majority of the students that will come from the White Flint 2 area, though there will be a number of students who will instead be part of the Down County Consortium. All of the Rock Spring students are part of the WJ Cluster.

As you can see below, there could be anywhere from 245 to 420 additional elementary school students in the WJ Cluster, 100 to 180 additional middle school students in the WJ Cluster, 130 to 225 additional high schools students in the WJ Cluster. The Downcounty Consortium could have 45 to 75 additional elementary school students, 15 to 30 additional middle school students, and 25 to 40 additional high school students. This is in addition to the projected students from the full build-out of White Flint 1.


White Flint 2 Downcounty Consortium Students


White Flint 2 Walter Johnson Cluster Students

rock spring

Rock Spring Student Projections






















Next, Debbie Szyfer, a senior planner at MCPS, discussed the recently concluded WJ Roundtable.  The Roundtable was charged with discussing general approaches to solve the near-term and long-term enrollment increases and solve the projected space deficits in the elementary, middle, and high schools in the WJ Cluster. The Roundtable came up with ten options for secondary schools and eight options for elementary schools. You can read all about the options here.

Here’s the timeline for the Roundtable process.

October 13, 2016  Superintendent’s Recommendation
November 3, 2016  Board of Education Worksession
November 10 & 14, 2016  Board of Education Public Hearing
November 21, 2016  Board of Education Action

Next, Pam Dunn, Functional Planning and Policy Chief, discussed the Subdivision Staging Policy which is currently being revised.  (The Subdivision Staging Policy is updated every four years and sets the rules for how adequate public facilities like schools and transportation.) Pam discussed the revisions being considered to the Subdivision Staging Policy. You can read about these revisions in more detail, including their impact here. (They’re toward the end of the slide show.)

1) Calculate School Facility Payments and the School Impact Tax using student generation rates associated with residential structures built over the prior 10 years.
2) Implement a hybrid annual school test that combines cluster utilization tests with individual school capacity deficit tests.
3) Update the calculation of the School Facility Payments on a biennial basis using the latest student generation rates and school construction cost data.
4) Limit counting placeholder capacity for a particular cluste rlevel or school as funded capacity under the Annual School Test to two years.
5) Update the School Impact Tax amounts on a biennial basis to reflect current school construction costs and updated student generation rates.
6) Remove the 0.9 multiplier in the School Impact Tax, so as to capture 100% of cost of school construction associated with a new residential unit.
7) Reintroduce the School Impact Tax and School Facility Payments in former Enterprise Zones through a phased approach.
8) Conduct further research to develop the criteria and process by which an area of the County can be exempted from the School Impact Tax and School Facility Payments
9) Further investigate options to increase the recordation tax to better capture the school construction cost associated with a home sale.

One final tidbit:
MCPS did a 30-year projection as part of the Roundtable process.  They project that in 30 years, WJ will have 3,600 students, Tilden will have 1,450 students, North Bethesda will have 1,300 students, and there will be 5,500 elementary students in the six elementary schools in the cluster.














What Happened at Last Night’s White Flint 2 Schools Meeting

Did you wake up this morning with the thought, “Hmm. I wonder what happened at the White Flint 2 Schools meeting last night. Oh, I know. I’ll check the Friends of White Flint blog. They always post terrific meeting summaries.” And now you’re on this page, wondering where the heck is the summary.

I’m waiting for the Planning Department to post slides and links from the meeting before blogging, and they promised to put the slides on their website some time today.

But heck, you did go to all the trouble to visit us, so here’s a tidbit to whet your appetite for the full blog later today.

Altogether, with the maximum build-out at White Flint 2 and Rock Spring, there will be an additional 420 elementary school students, 180 middle school students, and 225, high school students in the WJ cluster. (That’s in addition to the students that will be generated by the White Flint 1 development.)

Check back late this afternoon, though hopefully earlier, for a detailed report on last night’s meeting.

School-related Updates to Subdivision Staging Policy Will Be Discussed at Public Meeting on January 12

The Montgomery County Planning Department is now updating theSubdivision Staging Policy (formerly called Growth Policy) for review and approval by the County Council in 2016. The intent of the Subdivision Staging Policy is to ensure public facilities, particularly schools and roads, are adequate to meet the needs of new development and growth.
On Tuesday, January 12, a community meeting will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Planning Department auditorium (8787 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, MD) to discuss current school tests and school facility funding as they relate to the staging of subdivision development. Feedback from this event will help planners revise the sections related to schools in the current Subdivision Staging Policy. RSVPs are encouraged, but required. Learn more here.
RSVP for the January 12 Subdivision Staging Policy community meeting.

Potential relief for overcrowded White Flint area schools

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.

Inline image 1

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:

Elementary Schools

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.

Middle School

o There are no closed middle schools or future middle school sites.

High School

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.

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.

Where will the elementary school be located? It may be too soon to tell.

Sketch plan of White Flint Mall property.

Sketch plan of White Flint Mall property. Retrieved from

A letter from the Board of Education that was sent to the Planning Board at the request of Montgomery County Public Schools was the highlight of a Garrett Park Estates/White Flint Park Citizen’s Association meeting on Wednesday. Accordingly, Bruce Crispell, director of long range planning for MCPS, as well as Nkosi Yearwood and Brooke Farquhar from the Planning and Parks departments were there to explain the history of the school site and answer questions.

A few things became clear during the course of the meeting. First, both the Department of Planning and Department of Parks staff are still supporting the sector plan recommendation to locate the school south of the White Flint Mall site (currently a parking lot). However, they are meeting with Lerner Enterprises, the owners of the mall, to see how to find a way to increase the acreage for the elementary school. The site identified in the master plan for the school has been constrained by a revised road alignment to accommodate a “specific tenant” that will generate a lot of truck traffic, according to Yearwood. At this time, Lerner has only submitted a sketch plan, which is largely conceptual, for their site. Yearwood explained that the next step in the planning review process, a more detailed preliminary plan, is likely coming next year.

On MCPS’s side, all of the proposed sites are challenges. Crispell explained that MCPS likes to have 12 acres for an elementary school,  and that their typical requirements for an elementary school include 3 playgrounds and 3 paved areas for activities such as recess and physical education. This program of requirements is one of the reasons why MCPS is now looking at another site behind White Flint Mall, adjacent to White Flint Neighborhood Park – MCPS has many schools that co-locate outdoor activities with parks. Additionally, MCPS is looking to have land dedicated for the school so that acquisition won’t be an added expense.  During the course of the meeting it became clear that all of the potential sites likely have some dollar amount attached to them, but that MCPS will continue to favor those that come at the lowest cost. This reality is why some other sites suggested are considered unfeasible.  When asked about the current properties MCPS owns, Crispell explained that all of those properties currently have another use, and that MCPS prefers to have new land for a growing population, within the sector plan, to serve that community specifically. When one resident called for a more urban design for a school, such as a play area on a roof, Crispell replied “I don’t think we’re there yet,” though because of its smaller site Somerset Elementary in Chevy Chase has been thought of as a model for the new White Flint Elementary School.

The community’s concerns included traffic and the future of their park. Some were frustrated that White Flint Neighborhood Park would not be open for public use during the school day, particularly because the sector plan calls for the current park to be expanded. In terms of traffic, many community members were opposed to school busses and other additional traffic cutting through their neighborhood to reach the new elementary school. (While the plan is supposed to be walkable, it is likely that some busses will be needed, and school staff will be driving). Ken Hartman from the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center explained that it may not be necessary to have access to the school from the neighborhood, as is the case with Bethesda Elementary, where traffic can only enter from Arlington Road.

Ultimately this school is ten to 20 years (or perhaps more) away from being constructed.  The challenge lies in planning for these long range projects when nobody knows what the reality on the ground will be so far into the future. The Garrett Park Estates/White Flint Park Citizen’s Association voted against the recommendation that the site north of the mall be designated for the school and suggested that other sites continue to be investigated. Some members urged the county representatives to think more creatively about possible solutions. We will keep you updated as we hear more.

Meeting Next Week on White Flint School Site

The issue of a site for a future elementary school in the White Flint Sector is back at the forefront and County Planners will be at a meeting next week to discuss it.

From Park & Planning:

White Flint Elementary School
7:00 p.m., Wednesday, November 20
Garrett Park Elementary School
4810 Oxford Street
Kensington, MD 20895
Planners will participate in a general meeting of the Garrett Park Estates/White Flint Park Citizen’s Association at the Garrett Park Elementary School on Wednesday, November 20 at 7:00 p.m. Up for discussion is the  proposed White Flint elementary school on the White Flint Mall site. The meeting is open to the public.

White Flint Elementary School Site Up for Discussion

As the plans for a redeveloped White Flint Mall make their way through the planning process, the issue of reserving space for a future elementary school has returned.  The White Flint Sector Plan calls for 3.6 acres just south of White Flint Mall to be held for this purpose.  Presently, the site is a surface parking lot.

The Montgomery County School Board is asking the Planning Board to reconsider a slightly smaller plot of land on the north side of the Mall.  There, 2.5 acres abut the 8.5 acre White Flint Neighborhood Park.  MCPS planning officials think this site is preferable as it will give students access to the park’s open space.  County planners express concern about the uneven terrain and large number of trees at the northern site.  In any event, it’s not expected that the need for school construction will arise for several years – the plan is to reserve the property for 20 years.  But, as the Mall’s plans march forward, it’s important to have this piece resolved.

At this stage, the School Board is revising a letter that it will transmit to the Planning Board requesting the issue be reopened.  Read more from the Gazette here.