Students returning to new, upgraded buildings that add space -- Gazette.Net


This story was corrected and updated at 12:30 p.m. on Aug. 19, 2014. An explanation follows the story.

Some students will walk into buildings on their first day of class that mark the latest progress in Montgomery County Public Schools’ efforts to expand amid a quickly growing student population.

After a year and a half at the North Lake Center in Rockville, Bel Pre Elementary School in Silver Spring will hold classes this year in a new building.

Principal Carmen Van Zutphen said Bel Pre’s 508 students will learn in the environmentally friendly school, which has an outdoor courtyard and a capacity of 587 students. The new structure replaced the original building, which was constructed in 1968 at the same site.

In her roughly 13 years at the school, Van Zutphen said, it always has had multiple portable classrooms. This past school year, she said, the building was so full, it supplemented its space with eight portables.

“Our whole second grade prior to this renovation was in relocatable portables,” she said. “Now our second grade is all inside, with room to spare.”

Bruce Crispell, director of the school system’s Division of Long-range Planning, said that as of the first day of classes on Monday, county schools will have 154,153 students this year — 2,864 more than last year.

That’s the largest jump from one school year to the next for the school system since 2000, he said.

Crispell said the school system — “the largest [in the state] for some time” — has seen development, children immigrating to the U.S. and other factors over the years that have raised student enrollment.

“We don’t see any real significant changes in the trend at this point,” he said.

Clarksburg-area children will start their year at a new school that will help alleviate overcrowding at nearby Little Bennett and Cedar Grove elementary schools.

Wilson Wims Elementary School cost about $25 million to build and has a capacity for 734 students. That will let the school grow beyond its expected enrollment for this school year.

Sean McGee, the new school’s principal, said he’s learned a lot about the process of getting a school started. He said he has helped with staffing and getting rooms organized to prepare for the school’s first academic year.

The school was complete but for a few “finishing touches,” McGee said Friday.

New students, their parents and the teachers can attend an open house at the school this Friday.

At Waters Landing Elementary School in Germantown, which opened in 1988, students will see a building upgraded to include more classroom space, among other changes.

One addition added four classrooms to the school’s kindergarten area, which had three classrooms. The other expanded a two-story part of the building with another seven new classrooms.

With the added space, the school no longer needs nine portables it used for three third-grade classes, four fourth-grade classes, ESOL instruction and staff development.

Principal Tina Shrewsbury said she expects the same number of students this year as last year — about 690 — and all will fit in the upgraded building with room left for another 50 children.

A number of county schools will add portables to their property this year, bringing the total from 382 last school year to 408 this year, according to the school system’s Capital Improvements Program posted on its website.

• Rachel Carson Elementary in Gaithersburg will have three more portables this school year, for a total of 11.

• Woodlin Elementary in Silver Spring will have two more, for a total of nine.

• Lake Seneca Elementary in Germantown will have nine portables total after two were added.

• Bethesda-Chevy Chase High added four portables, for a total of eight.

• Rolling Terrace Elementary in Takoma Park has two more portables, for a total of eight.

The school system also will do two studies this school year in the Gaithersburg and Downcounty Consortium areas to look at possible construction projects to add capacity in the two areas that have seen significant enrollment growth.

Crispell said one study will cover seven elementary schools in the Gaithersburg cluster to evaluate the possibility of building additions or a new school.

The study will include Goshen, Gaithersburg, Laytonsville, Rosemont, Washington Grove, Summit Hall and Strawberry Knoll elementary schools.

He said some schools “lend themselves to additions we think.”

“But we won’t know until we really get an architect looking at them in detail,” he said.

Another study in the lower portion of the Downcounty Consortium will consider the same two approaches — additions versus a new school, Crispell said.

The study will encompass Sligo Creek, Forest Knolls, Woodlin, Highland View, Rolling Terrace, East Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Piney Branch, New Hampshire Estates, Oak View, Montgomery Knolls and Pine Crest elementary schools.

Superintendent Joshua P. Starr will make recommendations based on those two studies as part of the next Capital Improvements Program, to be announced next fall, Crispell said.

Staff writers Samantha Schmieder and Virginia Terhune contributed to this report.

A previous version of this story stated an incorrect location for Bel Pre Elementary School.