Category Archives: schools

Top Seventh State Stories, August 2020

By Adam Pagnucco.

These were the top stories on Seventh State in August ranked by page views.

1. The Squeaky Wheel and Inequities Hiding in Plain Sight
2. Is Talbot County Killing its Golden Goose?
3. Revealed! Funders of Nine Districts
4. Hogan Overturns MoCo Closure of Private Schools
5. MoCo Shuts Down Private Schools – Again
6. Volcano in Rockville
7. Two Districts vs Nine Districts
8. Council Drops Poison Pill on Nine Districts
9. Is the Council Violating the Open Meetings Act?
10. Friedson Asks for Answers on Private School Shutdown

Congratulations to MoCo PTA Vice-President Laura Stewart on writing our top post of the month! Laura’s excellent analysis of school construction geography was widely seen and provoked questions about county capital project decision making. Our Talbot County post saw lots of circulation and commentary on the Eastern Shore. The two major stories of Nine Districts and private school reopenings accounted for most of the rest of our top August posts. Keep reading and we’ll keep writing!

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MoCo Gives Up on Blanket Private School Shutdown

By Adam Pagnuccco.

Montgomery County health officer Travis Gayles just issued a new order rescinding his recent order shutting down MoCo private schools for in-person instruction. Gayles’s new order states, “I, Travis A. Gayles, M.D., Ph.D., Health Officer for Montgomery County, Maryland, despite believing that it is necessary to close nonpublic schools for in person instruction to protect the public, do hereby, pursuant to the August 6, 2020 Memorandum issued by the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health, rescind the August 5, 2020 Health Officer Directive Regarding Nonpublic Schools.”

That doesn’t mean private schools can do whatever they want. The state’s memorandum says that private school reopenings should be done in “close consultation” with local health departments using guidance from the state health department. That means there is still a role for regulation. But MoCo has conceded that there won’t be a blanket shutdown.

The county’s press release appears below.

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Health Order Prohibiting Nonpublic Schools Rescinded by Montgomery County Health Officer
For Immediate Release: Friday, August 7, 2020

Reemphasizing the need to protect the health and safety of Montgomery County residents as well as parents, students, teachers and staff from the spread of COVID-19, County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles today announced that he has rescinded his health order that prohibited nonpublic schools from opening for in-person instruction until after Oct. 1, 2020. The decision was made due to the new policy announced yesterday by the State Department of Health prohibiting the blanket closure of nonpublic schools.

Today’s new Health Officer Directive and Order regarding public, private and independent schools, dated Aug. 7, 2020, is effective immediately and rescinds the order dated Aug 5, 2020.

The Health Officer continues to strongly advise schools against in-person learning due to the risks posed by COVID-19 and has asked that the Department of Health provide articulable criteria to be used in determining acceptable and safe levels of activity in schools.

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Private Schools Caught in Elrich-Hogan Feud

By Adam Pagnucco.

Last November, I wrote about the growing feud between Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and Governor Larry Hogan. Back then, the issues were the governor’s proposed Beltway widening project, the dispute about how to fix MoCo’s crumbling public safety communications system, the thin blue line flag that was delivered to a MoCo police station and transportation funding. Some of those issues have faded over time but the general radioactivity between the two men can still melt hazmat suits. And now the feud is threatening to blow up MoCo’s private schools.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were roughly 190,000 people age 5 through 18 living in MoCo in 2018. MCPS K-12 enrollment was 158,101 in the 2018-19 school year, suggesting that about 30,000 students, or almost one-sixth of all MoCo kids, were in private school or home school. The Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns series identified 108 private school establishments in the county with 6,610 employees in 2017. Their combined annual payroll was $322 million.

Private schools are a big deal in MoCo.

Right now, private school employees, parents and students are caught in a tit-for-tat power struggle between Elrich and Hogan. This isn’t the typical sparring that the two do over social media. With the county saying one thing and the state saying the opposite, what are these families and employees supposed to do? If you’re a school and you open, the county could fine you. If you don’t, your own parents could sue you and/or pull their kids from your school.

It’s the worst of all worlds!

The situation calls for the low-key tactics of former County Executive Ike Leggett. Hogan, a good old boy developer and son of a Republican politician, and Leggett, a soft-spoken law professor who had risen from a childhood of poverty, couldn’t be more different. But despite their different backgrounds and beliefs, Leggett understood the powers of the governor and learned how to work him. Leggett succeeded in getting Hogan to back off a campaign promise to cancel the Purple Line and the two worked hand-in-hand to lure Amazon to MoCo. If Leggett had any criticism of Hogan, he kept it private. Leggett took a loooooong time to endorse Hogan’s general election rival, Democrat Ben Jealous, and never campaigned against Hogan. The two became peas in a pod – and an odd-looking pod at that!

The lesson of Leggett is not one of capitulation but of continuing to talk despite areas of disagreement. Leggett never made things personal even when other people wanted to. I wrote many tough pieces on his administration and Leggett would respond by seeing me at an event, shaking my hand and saying, “How are you? Is everything OK? Let me know if you need something.” Then I would feel bad about being so hard on him and I would go beat up someone else for a while!

Leggett, who originally hired current health officer Travis Gayles, would have found a way to work this current dispute out. Working the phones with Hogan and state health secretary Bobby Neall, Leggett and his people would have devised a stringent network to regulate private school reopenings without provoking a legal war with the state. And he would have kept it out of the press. The only sign of discussion would have been mutual praise between Leggett and Hogan of what a great job each was doing on handling COVID. As for the private schools, many would probably have opted for distance learning rather than deal with cumbersome county bureaucracy and plan approvals, thereby producing a similar result to the one desired by Elrich. It just would have happened without yelling and screaming.

Leggett is happily retired from elected service now and is probably laughing as he reads this column. He is still around. Maybe Elrich and Hogan should bring him back, always the calmest guy in the room, to settle their increasingly bitter feud.

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State Responds to New MoCo Shutdown of Private Schools

By Adam Pagnucco.

Maryland Secretary of Health Robert Neall has responded to Montgomery County’s new order shutting down private schools for in-person instruction. In a memo to the state’s health officers (including MoCo health officer Travis Gayles), Neall wrote, “The State of Maryland’s position is that all schools, including public school systems and non-public schools, be provided with the individualized opportunity to determine how they are able to comply with the federal and state COVID-19 guidance to reopen safely and protect students and staff. Those determinations should be made in close consultation with the affected schools and local health departments with Maryland Department of Health guidance.”

In other words, the state is saying once again that there should not be blanket closures of private schools.

So let’s stop back and take a broader view. The county’s original order shutting down private schools was based on authority contained in Governor Larry Hogan’s original emergency order. So Hogan amended his emergency order to exempt private schools from private shutdowns. The county said fine, we will issue a new shutdown order based on a different section of state law. Now Hogan’s health secretary is reiterating state authority over health policy and saying, “No you’re not.”

Looming over all of this is the tangled structure of appointment and reporting relationships between health officers and the state. Calvert County has a good description of that.

Neall’s memo to county health officers appears below.

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MoCo Shuts Down Private Schools – Again

By Adam Pagnucco.

Defying an amended state executive order by Governor Larry Hogan, Montgomery County Health Officer Travis Gayles has issued a new order shutting down private schools for in-person instruction through October 1. The new order follows a call with reporters today in which Gayles said county officials were “continuing to evaluate the impact of the governor’s order on the directive that we put out.”

Bring on the lawyers, folks.

The county’s press release appears below.

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Montgomery County Health Officer Issues Amended Directive to Protect Public Health; Prohibiting In-Person Instruction at Nonpublic Schools Until at Least Oct. 1
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020

Reemphasizing the need to protect the health and safety of Montgomery County residents as well as parents, students, teachers and staff from the spread of COVID-19, County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles today issued a new Health Officer Directive and Order that continued to direct nonpublic schools in Montgomery County to remain closed for in-person instruction until at least Oct. 1, 2020. Today’s order, citing the Maryland Code Annotated Health General § 18-208 and COMAR 10.06.01.06, rescinds and replaces the Health Officer Directive and Order Regarding Private and Independent Schools dated July 31, 2020. The new order, which is effective immediately, remains valid until Oct. 1, 2020, or until rescinded, superseded, amended, or revised by additional orders.

County officials continue to base their public health decisions on data and the data and science and at this point, the data does not suggest that in-person instruction is safe for students, teachers and others who work in a school building. There have been increases in transmission rates of COVID-19 in the State of Maryland, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Virginia, particularly in younger age groups, and this step is necessary to protect the health and safety of Montgomery County residents.

Nonpublic schools are defined as any school located in Montgomery County, Maryland that are not public schools. This includes, but is not limited to all private pay schools, schools affiliated with religious institutions, or schools that are otherwise considered to be independent schools. The Order does not apply to programs licensed or regulated by the Maryland Office of Childcare. Those programs were reopened effective July 19, 2020 pursuant to County Executive Order 082-20.

Based on CDC best practices for the reopening of schools, County health officials will continue to monitor the epidemiological surveillance data and that will guide the decision as to when it is safe to reopen nonpublic and public schools.

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Hogan Overturns MoCo Closure of Private Schools

By Adam Pagnucco.

Minutes ago, Governor Larry Hogan issued an amended executive order preventing political subdivisions from closing or modifying the operations of schools. The governor issued this statement:

The recovery plan for Maryland public schools stresses local flexibility within the parameters set by state officials. Over the last several weeks, school boards and superintendents made their own decisions about how and when to reopen public schools, after consultation with state and local health officials.

Private and parochial schools deserve the same opportunity and flexibility to make reopening decisions based on public health guidelines. The blanket closure mandate imposed by Montgomery County was overly broad and inconsistent with the powers intended to be delegated to the county health officer.

To be clear, Maryland’s recovery continues to be based on a flexible, community-based approach that follows science, not politics. As long as schools develop safe and detailed plans that follow CDC and state guidelines, they should be empowered to do what’s best for their community.

I want to thank all the parents, students, and school administrators who have spoken out in recent days about this important issue.

The language of the governor’s amended executive order states at I.(e):

If a political subdivision determines that doing so is necessary and reasonable to save lives or prevent exposure to COVID-19, the political subdivision is hereby authorized to issue Orders that are more restrictive than this Order (“Local Orders”):

i. requiring any businesses, organizations, establishments, or facilities (except schools) to close or modify their operations; and/or

ii. requiring individuals to remain indoors or to refrain from congregating.

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Friedson Asks for Answers on Private School Shutdown

By Adam Pagnucco.

District 1 County Council Member Andrew Friedson has sent the letter below to county health officer Travis Gayles asking a series of questions about the county’s shutdown of private schools for in-person instruction, which happened on Friday. Friedson’s district includes Bethesda, Cabin John, Chevy Chase, Garrett Park, Glen Echo, North Bethesda, Poolesville, Potomac and part of Kensington.

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August 3, 2020

Travis A. Gayles, M.D., Ph.D.
Health Officer, Montgomery County
401 Hungerford Drive, 5th Floor
Rockville, MD 20850

Dr. Gayles,

As I am sure you are aware, the health order you issued late Friday, July 31 prohibiting independent schools from reopening for in-person instruction has been met with a great deal of anger, frustration, and confusion among our residents. This order caught many independent school leaders and families by surprise, including many who have spent the last several months preparing to open based on CDC and state guidelines. Understandably, it has generated countless questions conveyed to me and my office over the weekend.

While I recognize that not everyone will agree with all of the difficult decisions you must make as our County’s Public Health Officer during this pandemic, our residents do deserve clear, logical, and consistent rationales for those decisions, along with timely and transparent answers to their questions. In that spirit, I am requesting that you answer the following questions for our residents in a thorough, fact-based, and timely manner, consistent with previous reopening decisions made to date:

1. What specific health metrics and epidemiological data were used to make the determination that independent schools cannot safely open until at least October 1? Are there specific, objective public health metrics that must be met before in-person instruction can take place?

2. Why are neighboring jurisdictions with similar transmission rates allowing independent schools to open? Are they basing their decisions on different data? Do they assess the risk differently?

3. Have you consulted with neighboring jurisdictions to determine why they’ve reached a different conclusion than our health department?

4. Have you consulted with the State Health Department to discuss this decision and the factors upon which it is based?

5. Are there specific, unique features of a school setting that carry significant additional risk of transmission compared to other businesses such as child care providers, restaurants, barbers, retailers and offices that are able to operate on a limited basis with health directives such as social distancing, use of facial masks and other PPE, and cleaning protocols?

6. Rather than a wholesale prohibition of in-class instruction, did you and your team consider whether independent and religiously affiliated schools should be provided a set of health and safety guidelines for reopening like other sectors in our community? Are there no health directives and safety measures that can be employed in order for schools to open as many businesses have been able to? If not, why?

7. Were independent schools directly involved in the decision-making process to determine how they had planned to follow the CDC and state guidelines and whether there were additional measures that could be employed to further mitigate transmission risk? Were schools afforded an opportunity to provide individualized reopening plans for your consideration?

8. I understand that some day-care centers will operate “kindergarten support” classes. Children who would otherwise be in public school kindergarten will go to these classes at a day-care center, and the day-care center will assist the children with the online kindergarten instruction, and also provide aftercare. If that can be done safely, is it possible for a private school to safely operate a kindergarten class, provided it has the same density of children and adults and uses the same safety standards as a day-care center operating a “kindergarten support” class?

Because these decisions are not easy and the available information regarding this disease is rapidly evolving, it is even more critical that public health directives be made as clearly, consistently, and transparently as possible. If we ask the community to follow the rules, we must ensure that they have faith in the process that determined the rules, as well as the policies themselves. Thank you in advance for your prompt response to these questions.

Sincerely,
Andrew Friedson
Councilmember, District 1

CC: Marc Elrich, County Executive
Dr. Earl Stoddard, Director, Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Sidney Katz, President, County Council
Gabe Albornoz, Chair, Health and Human Services Committee, County Council

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MoCo Shuts Down Private Schools for In-Person Instruction

By Adam Pagnucco.

Montgomery County Health Officer Travis Gayles has issued an order shutting down private schools for in-person instruction. The order includes but is not limited to “all private pay schools, schools affiliated with religious institutions, or schools that are otherwise considered to be independent schools.” The order as currently drafted applies through October 1, 2020. Gayles cites State Executive Order 20-07-29-01 as giving him the authority to institute the shutdown. The order prohibits private schools from “physically reopening for in-person instruction” but is silent on virtual instruction.

The order from Gayles is reprinted below.

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Reopening Decisions by School District So Far

By Adam Pagnucco.

Editor’s note: this post has been updated to include Washington County, Maryland.

In the aftermath of discussion about MCPS’s reopening plans, let’s take a look at what other districts are planning. Bear in mind that jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia are bound by state guidance and they have had different coronavirus infection rates. Below is a summary of the approaches taken by 18 school districts in the Washington-Baltimore region.

Opening with online only as first phase (7 districts)

Arlington County: Schools will begin on September 8 with full-time distance learning. Parents may choose a hybrid model combining distance learning and physical school, which will begin implementation in October.

Charles County: Schools will start with all virtual learning “with a goal of transitioning to Phase 2 as quickly as possible. Phase 2 would include in-person instruction for special populations of students.”

Harford County: Distance learning only for the first semester. A limited number of spaces in physical schools will be offered to students to help them access online instruction.

Howard County: Distance learning only through January 28.

Prince George’s County: Distance learning only for the first two quarters of the school year.

Prince William County: The school year will begin with distance learning only for the first quarter (September 8 through October 30). Afterwards, “the goal will be to transition to a 50% capacity model in the second quarter, with the option for students to remain virtual.”

Washington County: “Washington County Public Schools (WCPS) students will begin the 2020-2021 school year with all students in grades pre-k through 12 engaged in distance learning. The Board of Education unanimously agreed to adopt a model of full distance learning beginning August 31, 2020 and continuing until it is safe for students to physically return to school.”

Preliminary plan with online only as first phase (3 districts)

Calvert County: “On July 16th, the Board of Education of Calvert County Public Schools decided to continue the discussion of how to open the 2020-2021 school year. To ensure the safety of staff and students during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Board is in favor of starting the year online for all students. Board members recognize, however, that barriers exist for some students to learn online. The Board will continue to accept public comments about meeting the needs of students with limited or no internet connectivity or other challenges through July 22nd.”

Carroll County: Reopening will occur in three sequential phases: enhanced virtual/distance learning for all students, hybrid model combining distance learning and some in-person instruction and a traditional model. Parents may opt for online only for the entire fall semester.

Montgomery County: Schools will begin with distance learning and eventually phase in some in-person instruction. The teachers union and MCPS management have shared their perspectives on the plan.

Opening with choice model (1 district)

Fairfax County: Parents have been given a choice between full-time distance learning and a hybrid option with at least two days in physical schools.

Preliminary plan with hybrid or choice model (2 districts)

District of Columbia: According to a preliminary plan, parents may choose between all online learning or a hybrid of in-person and online. Mayor Muriel Bowser has said a final plan will be announced on July 31.

Frederick County: A draft plan suggests that most schools will open with a hybrid model in which students will be divided into two cohorts and alternate between two days in physical school and three days in virtual learning.

No plan yet (5 districts)

Alexandria City: The district is still in its planning process and does not yet have a draft plan.

Anne Arundel County: The district is still in its planning process and does not yet have a draft plan.

Baltimore City: The district is preparing a preliminary plan for consideration by the school board on July 28.

Baltimore County: No decision has been made.

Loudoun County: No plan has yet been released.

So far, no public school district in the region has said it will reopen with 100% traditional in-person instruction.

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Placeholders, Indeed, Do Have a Place in the MCPS Capital Budget

By Glenn Orlin.

In a recent piece in Seventh State it was argued that so-called “placeholder” projects have no place in the Montgomery County Public Schools capital program. But there are very good reasons why the County Council has done exactly that for the past eight years.

First, some background.  The Subdivision Staging Policy (SSP) Public School Adequacy Test compares enrollment five years in advance—at each cluster and level (HS, MS, or ES), and at each school—against the budgeted capacity at each cluster/level and school five school years hence.  If the future enrollment exceeds the future capacity in a cluster by more than 20% at any level, then the cluster goes into a housing moratorium; that is, no more housing subdivisions can be approved until the capacity standard is met.  (Relocatable classrooms are not counted towards “capacity” under the School Adequacy Test.) If the future enrollment exceeds the future capacity in a MS service area by more than 20% and 180 students, then that MS service area goes into a housing moratorium.  If the future enrollment exceeds the future capacity in an ES service area by more than 20% and 110 students, then that ES service area goes into a housing moratorium.  The five-year rule was selected many years ago because, on average, that is how long it takes for a housing subdivision approval to morph into occupied housing units, many of them having kids of school age.

At the start of this decade the Council began the practice of budgeting generic “Solution” (i.e., placeholder) CIP projects in certain circumstances.  The rationale is that while a cluster or school service area might have enrollment that exceeds the moratorium threshold, in many cases MCPS is concurrently planning for a new school or addition that would provide sufficient capacity in time to avoid such a moratorium.  The Council has approved Solution projects only when all the following conditions are met:

  1. A cluster or school service area is projected to exceed the moratorium threshold;
  2. MCPS is concurrently—or about to start—planning for a capital project that would address the potential moratorium; and
  3. MCPS’s normal schedule for planning, design, and construction would have the project’s added capacity opening by the start of the school year five years hence.

The most recent application of the School Test was approved by the Planning Board on June 22, 2017.  The Board placed seven ES service areas into moratorium: Burnt Mills, Highland View, Kemp Mill, Lake Seneca, Rosemont, Strawberry Knoll, and Summit Hall.  At that time, while all of them met Condition #1, none of them met Conditions #2 and #3.  Eight other clusters or school service areas were not placed into moratorium because Solution projects were justifiable and programmed: they met all three conditions.  In the FY19-24 CIP several of these Solution projects will be replaced by specific projects that the Board of Education (BOE) is now officially ready to recommend.  This new CIP will include only four Solution projects.

It is important to note that the decision to budget a Solution project for a school has nothing to do with whether there are new housing applications in that area awaiting the Planning Board’s approval.  Condition #1 occurs either when projected enrollment growth due to turnover, already approved new housing, or both, will be over the capacity threshold.  Whether there are impending housing development applications simply doesn’t matter in the decision to budget a Solution project or not.  Now let’s turn to the examples raised in the earlier Seventh State piece.

Bethesda ES and Somerset ES.  The service areas for both schools in the B-CC Cluster are projected to be well over capacity (+25% and +27%, respectively) in five years, that is, by the start of the 2023-24 school year.  MCPS is initiating an elementary school capacity study for the B-CC Cluster, which would examine a range of options.  The study will be conducted during the 2018-2019 school year.  The Board of Education (BOE) will then be in position to propose a specific project in its FY21-26 CIP request; if that project’s funding were to begin in FY21, then, following the normal schedule for planning, design, and construction it could open at the start of the 2023-24 school year.  Because all three conditions are met—a projected moratorium, planning about to begin, and a path to project completion in five years—the Council is poised to fund Solution projects for Bethesda ES and Somerset ES.  The total amount to be budgeted for these two Solution projects is about $6.4 million.  When a specific project is ready to be budgeted, this $6.4 million will be used to help fund it.

Judith A. Resnik ES.  The current CIP has a fully funded addition at this Magruder Cluster school (which would bring its capacity up to 740), but the BOE deleted the construction funding in its request for the FY19-24 CIP.  Enrollment is trending downward, although in five years it is still projected to exceed the moratorium standard if there is no addition.  The BOE is continuing planning for an addition, however.  So, since all three of the above conditions are met, the Council is planning to fund a $2.7 million Solution project for Resnik ES.

The fourth Solution project is about $6.3 million for Einstein HS, which the Council had already initiated, and the BOE itself has recommended continuing it. Therefore, the sum of the four Solution projects is about $15.4 million.  All but $3.7 million would be programmed in the last three years of the CIP (FYs22-24).

Burnt Mills ES.  This school is projected to be 47% over capacity in 2023-24, so certainly Condition #1 is met.  However, MCPS is requesting the Council to set aside in the CIP $120 million (talk about your placeholders!) while it undertakes a thorough review of the prior revitalization/expansion program “in order to develop a multi-variable approach to determine the priority order of large-scale renovations, possibly including programmatic and capacity considerations” (Superintendent’s FY19 CIP Request, page 1-2).  Therefore, the Burnt Mills situation meets neither Condition #2 nor #3.  Once the BOE has determined a strategy for this school, its improvement would either be partially funded as a Solution project or fully funded from the outset.

Ashburton ES.  If the argument is being made that Solution projects are budgeted to meet the desires of new development, then consider the case of Ashburton in the Walter Johnson Cluster.  It is projected to be more than 22% over capacity five years from now, meeting Condition #1.  Just last fall the Council approved the Rock Spring Master Plan which allows for at least 2,300 more housing units than exists or is already approved.  Almost all the Rock Spring area is within the Ashburton ES service area.  Nevertheless, since MCPS is not undertaking planning for additional capacity that would further relieve Ashburton, its service area will go into a housing moratorium in July.

E. Brooke Lee MS Addition. When the Council approves the CIP, it assures that there is enough money to pay for the projects it is budgeting in each of the CIP’s six years.  The Council is approving a tighter CIP this year than in the past, because it recognizes that debt service on borrowing has grown too high.  (Debt service is an obligation that must be paid before anything else in the budget, including salaries.)  Earlier this year the Council asked for the Superintendent to provide it with a list of “non-recommended” projects that would be the first choices to be reduced or deferred, should the Council need them to meet the spending limits.

One of the projects on his list was to delay the construction funding for Lee MS by one year, although not to delay the first-year (FY19) design funds, which would allow the opportunity for the project to be reaccelerated next year.  In its worksession on April 17, several members of the Council expressed the desire to delay neither the design nor the construction funds for the Lee MS project.  To accommodate this desire, there is a shortfall of $8 million in FY20 and $9.5 million in FY21 for which funds must be found.  We will do our best to do that, but deleting the Solution projects would contribute nearly nothing to this effort; there is only $169,000 in Solution project funds in FY20, and only $3.6 million in FY21; the remaining $11.7 million is in FY22 and later.

Do Solution projects almost never get done in five years, as the Seventh State article claims?  In fact, almost every project does get done within five years, or, the BOE later decides that the project isn’t needed after all.   In the article, it is stated that most of the Solution projects added in FY15 did not translate into actual projects within five years, which would have been the 2019-2020 school year.  For FY15 the Council added Solution projects for five Downcounty Consortium elementary schools: Brookhaven, Glen Haven, Highland, Kemp Mill, and Sargent Shriver.  Two years later, however, the BOE retracted its request for these projects, noting that the projected seat deficits were no longer high enough for it to request funds for additions there (see the FY17 Educational Facilities Master Plan, pages 4-37 through 4-41).

Is “real money” being taken out of the MCPS for Solution projects?  In a word, no.  The Council never budgets all the money it could in the CIP.  This is because the Council needs to reserve funds for: (1) when construction bids come in over estimates; (2) for when projects that are in the planning stage are ready for construction funding later in the CIP period; and (3) for unanticipated opportunities or emergencies that arise.  For these reasons, the Council this year will probably set aside a capital reserve of about 9% of the funds available for budgeting, as has been recommended by the County Executive.  But, after all, a Solution project is but a designated reserve, so the Council—as it has in the past—will likely set an undesignated capital reserve less than the Executive recommended by the $15.4 million in these Solution projects.  Therefore, the Solution projects do not compete with other projects in the MCPS CIP, nor with those in the County Government, Montgomery College, or Park & Planning CIPs.  If anything, the Solution projects provide a first claim on the capital reserve.

In summary, Solution projects in the CIP in no way compete with other projects, and they avoid housing moratoria in certain situations where they are not warranted.

Glenn Orlin is the Deputy Director of the Office of the County Council.  He has been the Council’s CIP Coordinator for the last 26 years.

 

 

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