Former Mayor Larry Giammo, widely credited for guiding the construction of the city's town center, is urging residents to turn out in force at the January 5 Mayor and Council Public Hearing on the APFO, and oppose the changes. The changes under consideration include adopting a weaker school capacity test similar to Montgomery County's, which would allow more overcrowding (120%) than exists today. They would also use an average across school clusters that could mask specific schools' severe overcrowding issues, and change the school capacity test period from 2 to 5 years.
Moore proposes charging developers a fee for their projects when school overcrowding reaches 105-120% of capacity, and says the current mechanism to request funds when overcrowding hits 110% hasn't generated the construction money necessary.
Giammo rebuts Moore's assertion that the APFO has failed Rockville on adequate school construction, arguing that the APFO was never intended as a solution to begin with; only to prevent overcrowding from getting even worse. "Why propose to loosen controls which are keeping the problem from getting worse, if you actually care about the problem?" wrote Giammo on his blog ten days ago.
Residents are organizing around a petition to keep the current standards in place, and are also urging concerned citizens to attend the January 5 hearing, or email their testimony if they cannot attend to speak in person. East Rockville resident Peter Wizler, who recently helped lead citizen efforts to prevent a self-storage facility from being constructed near Maryvale Elementary School, wrote on his blog that "I am sure we can all agree that school over crowding compromises the education of our kids." Loosening standards would lead to a rapid increase in development and overcrowding, many residents fear. Such development has been restrained by the current APFO standards.
The diverging opinions on the APFO/APFS have been a constant source of debate in City politics in recent years, and in the past election. Equally on the front burner has been the push to get more funding for school expansion and construction across Rockville. Mayor Bridget Newton and Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr recently testified before the Montgomery County Board of Education about the need for funds, and more accurate planning for future student populations.
The January 5 public hearing will be at 7:00 PM in the Mayor and Council chambers at Rockville City Hall. A vote on the APFO changes is currently scheduled for January 26, 2015.