There are about 2,075 more students attending public school in Montgomery County this year compared to last year, according to new data from the school system.
That pushes enrollment to an all-time high of 148,572 students, about 11,000 more students than five years ago. And five years from now, there will be 11,000 more students, according to school system projections.
The school system is dealing with two issues when it comes to keeping up with the growth — a shortage of classroom space, and the need to renovate aging buildings, said Bruce Crispell, the school system’s director of long-range planning, on Tuesday.
The overcrowding now seen at elementary schools will soon shift to middle and high schools, despite the planned opening of six new schools, renovations at 18 schools, and the construction of 227 new classrooms by 2017.
Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr said school officials should keep an open mind when it comes to addressing the issues, stating that it doesn’t always take a new building to meet the needs of students.
For example, he said, the school system is working on strengthening its relationship with the county’s parks and planning department to study how existing public spaces could be used to co-locate public amenities such as schools and community centers.
Board of Education member Philip Kauffman (At-large) of Olney said the conversation at the board meeting Tuesday is one he has heard over and over again. He challenged Starr to offer recommendations for changes the school board should make to the school system’s policies to see that students have adequate classroom space.
“I feel like this is sort of déjà vu,” he said. “What is the plan?”
Starr said he did not have recommendations at this time. He said those recommendations would be made next year, when the school system’s capital improvement program is rewritten.