Officials working on solutions to address student overcrowding concerns in Montgomery County
GERMANTOWN, Md. - Overcrowding is impacting schools across the D.C. region and pushing schools beyond capacity. The problem impacts every parent and child, and is spiraling out of control in Maryland.
Last school year, the student population for Montgomery County Public Schools was about 162,000 students. The school district said it is still calculating the student population this year, but it is likely up.
"It does cause some concern, but I am aware that there are actions in place to minimize the amount of students in the classroom," said Montgomery County parent Tameka Johnson. "While there is some overcrowding, it has been more in the past. So they are slowly but surely making some progress in that area."
Johnson and many other parents agree schools are at overcapacity for a variety of reasons including new development, a reported increase in the immigrant population and a boost in new residents.
"We're working through a lot of different solutions," said Montgomery County Public Schools Executive Director Essie McGuire. "Obviously, a lot of our solution is to have new construction where we can. We have additions onto schools where we can add space. We have opened a number of new schools. But we also look at non-capital solutions in terms of - can we move programs around? Sometimes that is a boundary change. Of course, we can add temporary space when we really need to do that as well."
In Germantown, the new building for Seneca Valley High School is under construction as it will become the largest high school in the state.
However, the Montgomery County Planning Department has issued a moratorium on new construction back in July that currently remains in place. FOX 5 has learned it applies to areas in Silver Spring, Takoma Park and Bethesda - areas that have become in high demand in recent years. We are told the moratorium only applies to applications for new residential construction.
Other alternatives to address the influx include transforming office buildings to schools.
"Other potential solutions include looking at alternative designs for schools that may not match what we typically think of when we think of schools," said Montgomery County Planning Department Special Project Coordinator Jason Sartori. "It might be on smaller school sites. It might be co-location with other public facilities. It could be using vacant office space in certain parts of the county. It could also be reopening schools that had been previously been closed when enrollment was dropping."
Santori said a moratorium on new residential development is typically issued when schools reach more than 20 percent capacity, which is the case for many schools in Montgomery County.