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Mayor Katz: Crown High School Would Help Overcrowding

In an unusual move, land has been set aside for a high school within the new Crown Development, the mayor says, but will the facility really be built?

Within the confines of Gaithersburg's new Crown Development is a 32-acre plot that, unlike much of the planned residential and retail sites on the property's approximately 180 acres, will go untouched for an extended period.

That plot, donated to Montgomery County Public Schools by the City of Gaithersburg and Crown developers, will serve as a future high school, but not for at least six years, MCPS spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala told Patch.

In fact, such a school technically doesn't even exist, MCPS spokesperson Dana Tofig said.

"The [Board of Education] purchases land, or gathers, in trust that what they own could be used for future development as a school," Tofig said. "There is nothing in our CIP, not even planning funds, for a school on [the Crown] site."

But eventually a new high school will be built there, Gaithersburg Mayor Sidney A. Katz said. It's really just a matter of time.

"We’re going to have the school site, which eventually, not that we’re having that immediately, that will affect our children for years to come," Katz told Patch on a bus tour of the Crown development. "This is really something that’s not just for the people that will be living [in Crown], it’s something for the entire Montgomery County area, for the whole community."

Although he's unsure how MCPS would draw district lines, Katz said he believes the new high school will be used to help reduce overcrowding at area high schools.

Gaithersburg, Quince Orchard, Richard Montgomery and Thomas S. Wootton high schools are all within five miles of Crown and only Richard Montgomery had enrollment numbers for the 2011-12 school year that did not exceed  respective maximum capacities, according to MCPS.

Gaithersburg High School (Gaithersburg)
  • 2011-12 Enrollment: 2,008
  • 2011-12 Capacity: 1,974 (expanding to 2,284 for 2013-14)
  • 2017-18 Projected Enrollment: 2,087
Quince Orchard High School (Gaithersburg)
  • 2011-12 Enrollment: 1,780
  • 2011-12 Capacity: 1,777
  • 2017-18 Projected Enrollment: 1,903
Richard Montgomery High School (Rockville)
  • 2011-12 Enrollment: 2,101
  • 2011-12 Capacity: 2,232
  • 2017-18 Projected Enrollment: 2,301
Thomas S. Wootton High School (Rockville)
  • 2011-12 Enrollment: 2,318
  • 2011-12 Capacity: 2,091
  • 2017-18 Projected Enrollment: 2,249

Still, there is concern that the high school may not be built within 20 years, at which point the land would be returned to the city, council member Jud Ashman said at a Monday evening work session with MCPS officials.

"It doesn't look, according to your [enrollment] projections, like there will be any need for a high school in the next 20 years," Ashman said.

Katz said the bottom line is the land is there for a school to built, and it's possible the city and MCPS could renegotiate their agreement for the site many years down the road.

Because MCPS currently has no plans for the property, Tofig said it could not engage in any speculation regarding future high school district changes.

Katz, however, said MCPS will draw from multiple areas to "make certain that the population is diverse in every way."

The mayor also said he believes this is the first time in MCPS history in which a land owner was able to donate an entire high school site.

Tofig said he could not confirm it was the county's first high school site provided by a developer, but added, "It would be extremely rare. It is more common with elementary school sites."

Related Coverage:

 (July 26, 2012)

 (July 25, 2012)

 (July 25, 2012)

 (July 24, 2012)

 (July 18, 2012)

MD July 31, 2012 at 01:25 PM
what the... So, Crown developers gave the land, that wont be used for at least 6, maybe 20, if ever, so they can build mixed but....something doesnt seem right.....Moco and this whole area doesnt have a clue how to use the land, but to suck every penney out of it while leaving everybody else footing the bill
Andrew Ross July 31, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Huh? I didn't understand much of this article, especially Ashman's quote about not needing another school... I also thought the developer was going to build the school. Is the City Council using the "fingers crossed" strategy to easing school overcrowding.
Greg Cohen July 31, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Andrew -- It's not up to the city or the developer to decide if/when a school will be built on the property. That's up to MCPS and is generally based upon population needs. 2017-18 projections aren't overcrowded enough (high schools are built to average near 2,000+ capacity). Jud's comment refers to much farther down the road, when if a school isn't built the property will be returned to the city. As he sees, it's feasible that might be the case.
Tom Rowse July 31, 2012 at 05:42 PM
In my opinion, this is a public relations stunt by the mayor and council to make everyone believe they know schools and can predict overcrowding better than MCPS. Just look at the APFO debacle, connect the dots on their arrogance in telling MCPS that a new high school is needed in this instance and then listen to their stammering double-speak. Ultimately, this is an MCPS decision.
Joan Anders July 31, 2012 at 06:35 PM
What about Rockville H.S. and Churchill aren't they just as close? Richard Montgomery and Wooton are not close to Gaitherburg really.
Greg Cohen July 31, 2012 at 08:01 PM
RM and Wootton are closer to this location (for the purpose of this story, we drew the line as within 5 miles) than Churchill (about 6.5 miles) and Rockville (about 6). They also don't have neighborhoods in Gaithersburg that serve those schools.
Brigitta Mullican July 31, 2012 at 09:13 PM
The developers are not responsible to build schools the county is. Developers pay fees to the county and they dedicate land for future schools. The King Farm Planned Development set aside land for a future school. In the meantime the King Farm residents are enjoying the open space as park area. What people don't understand the developers have to abide by all the laws/codes. It is obvious to me that there is a need for what the developers are building or they wouldn't invest their money in projects in our county. I know other areas in this country who would love a developer to come to their city and build.
Robin Weinberg Ofner August 01, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Can you imagine the outpouring of outrage if Wootton kids were redistricted into Gaithersburg? Hey, we're always talking about ways to increase PTA attendance/involvement!
Brigitta Mullican August 01, 2012 at 12:44 AM
It should all be about enrollment numbers.
Andrew Ross August 01, 2012 at 02:53 AM
Greg, thanks for your reply. I understand that MCPS typically builds the schools, but the City has been speaking as if the school building was a sure thing so I thought it was in the plans - this is the first I had heard that it could easily not happen ever. Can you explain why Jud thinks the school wouldn't be needed if your stats are true that all of the high schools will be over capacity in 5 years? Or, what would stop MCPS from using the land for an ES or MS if that's what is most needed? Thanks again.
andra abramson August 01, 2012 at 12:32 PM
This left me wondering where all the kids who move into the new crown farm community are going to go to elementary school. Practically every es is already over crowded so that seems like a more immediate problem. Does anyone know the plan for that?
Amanda August 06, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Currently, kids from that area are being bussed all the way to Jones Lane Elementary on the N.Potomac/Darnestown line and then they later attend Ridgeview Middle School and then Quince Orchard HS. Hello! That area is already at full capacity! Where does Mayor Katz think these kids are going to attend school if the area schools in that district are at full capacity? Let me guess - its predicted that multi-family units will only have 1.2 children attending school per every 3 units, therefore it won't be an issue (I think that was what they had predicted for Kentlands/Lakelands at the time). MCPS doesn't even have enough money in the budget for each child to have a text book; lot less enough for adequate teachers per student; lot less fixing the broken down older schools; lot less build a whole new school. This is definitely a public relations stunt. MCPS does not have a school planned for this area.
Janis October 11, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Amanda, MCPS has plenty of money for textbooks. What makes you think they don't? The Board of Education just approved a plan to spend $14 million on out of date Promethean Boards and wireless access for teachers. Its' a choice. They chose to spend millions on preferred vendors rather than on classrooms. And, every year the Board of Education takes UNUSED Textbook money and transfers it to other uses. http://parentscoalitionmc.blogspot.com/2010/07/weast-ends-year-with-32800000-surplus.html This has gone on for years. That's just one example. Get the facts.
Janis October 11, 2012 at 08:17 PM
MCPS can't predict overcrowding at all. Anyone could do it better. MCPS students have been outside of their buildings in classroom trailers for OVER 25 years. MCPS has no interest in getting all children inside brick and mortar buildings. Superintendent Jerry Weast made it very clear that buildings were NOT a priority. He said classrooms didn't matter. And so, classrooms don't matter in the MCPS budget.
Janis October 11, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Question: Who actually holds title to this land? That is not revealed in this article. Either the land belongs to the Board of Education, or it doesn't. If the land belongs to the BOE then can use it as they like. For example, in the Brickyard Middle School case the BOE has decided that private soccer fields are in order. If this land belongs to the BOE they can use it for an elementary school, a technical high school, a bus depot or anything else.

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