Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Rockville Council tables proposal to allow more school overcrowding until next week

There's still no compromise solution with majority support on the proposal to allow more overcrowding at Montgomery County Public Schools in Rockville. A majority of the City Council voted to table the discussion last night, when the body had been expected to vote on the matter. Developer B.F. Saul had warned that if the city failed to loosen its Adequate Public Facility Standards to avoid a development moratorium, it is possible that their Twinbrook Quarter anchor tenant Wegmans could back out of the project.

B.F. Saul had said if the vote was postponed beyond last night, the Wegmans deal could be in jeopardy. The Mayor and Council will take up the matter again at their February 4 meeting, postponing a high-stakes, election-year "Wegmans vs. schools" vote by seven days.


  1. If the proposal wins, Dyer will blame the Council for school overcrowding.

    If the proposal loses, Dyer will blame the Council for losing Wegmans.

  2. The Rockville City Council have no control of the overcrowding of the County schools. The Montgomery County Public School is responsible for enrollment, staffing, transportation, building maintenance, and boundary changes. It is MCPS who decides when and where to build new schools not the Rockville City Council.
    Here is part of my public hearing testimony to the Rockville City Council several weeks ago. It isn't much different from what I said to the Council in December.
    One of the Mayor and Council Strategic Goals and Principles is “Responsible Growth Management. It states we “will work cooperatively with residents, the business community, developers, the County and the City of Gaithersburg to address critical infrastructure issues, including appropriate revisions to the APFS & APFO, where required.”
    Keeping that goal in mind, the Mayor and Council need to find an immediate short-term solution that allows projects to move forward while refocusing on a long-term solution to the broken APFS.
    Exactly four year ago the Rockville City Council held public hearings on the Adequate Public Facility Standards (APFS) and the school capacity was a concern. Again, the City is faced with a moratorium that would halt the Twinbrook Quarters Development. This Twinbrook project is an economic benefit to Rockville and it follows the smart growth concept near a Metro station.
    In 2015, facts showed that most of the additional students were coming from the existing housing and the cause of overcrowding of school is not due to development. Public hearings were held and the debates obfuscated the facts. The number of school students changed due to the demographics of the neighborhoods and not development projects.
    MCPS policy dictates “Students in Montgomery County are expected to attend the school within the established attendance area in which they reside (home school) or assigned in accordance with their Individualized Education Program (IEP). Students may apply for Change of School Assignment (COSA) from the home school, or the school of assignment through the IEP process, ….”
    In summary MCPS policy controls the overcrowding of schools. In my opinion, Richard Montgomery High School and other schools are overcrowded because of decision to allow students into the special programs. It seems to happen because there are not enough neighborhood students to fill the classrooms.

    MCPS has primary responsibility to plan for educational facilities that sustain high-quality MCPS educational programs while effectively responding to changes in student enrollment, educational programming, and physical plant infrastructure. They make decision on the class size, portable classrooms, adding or eliminating programs, and boundary changes.

    The MCPS has the ability to add educational facilities, change classroom sizes, add special programs, and shift the boundaries. In the 80’s the courts declared the City had little legal standing with the school issues. The City can make comments on the school plans and were careful to avoid pitting neighborhoods against each other in the various school challenges.
    In 2015 when MCPS conducted a feasibility study for the possible expansion of the Twinbrook Elementary School, it was recommended that the school standard be completely deleted from the Rockville APFO. I recommend the school requirement in the APFS be dropped because Rockville has no control with the school capacity as I stated above.
    It is time to be honest with our residents by informing them of the city’s limited role in County school issues and lower expectations for what the City can actually impact. Let us delete the APFS requirement for schools altogether to make this clear.

  3. Isn't this kind of a game theory problem? Rockville can't control where the funding for new/expanded schools goes goes, and MCPS can't control where the new developments go. But Rockville can approve new developments that will (according to future projections) overcrowd Richard Montgomery, and thus force MCPS (also working from projections) to allocate more of its capital budget toward expanding or building new schools in Rockville as opposed to elsewhere in the county.

    Then the smart, if a bit cynical, move for Rockville would be to approve developments that would (theoretically, in the future) overcrowd Richard Montgomery HS, and as long as MCPS is working from the same projections, then relieving the (projected) overcrowding Richard Montgomery/Rockville would become the squeaky wheel that gets priority when MCPS decides where to spend money for new schools.

    It seems like it's a gamble (and a race to the bottom if other jurisdictions start playing the same game, though presumably other parts of the county don't have developers itching to build). But as a self-interested Rockville resident, I should be in favor of raising the caps, assuming I believe a) that MCPS is going to spend money to build new schools somewhere in the county; b) that will happen before any of the the projections actually become reality; and c) the scary projections will make it much more likely that the new schools will be built in Rockville rather than elsewhere. If I don't believe or am not comfortable with one of those risks, I should oppose it. And (b) looks like the biggest risk.

    Can someone more knowledgeable about this tell me if I'm analyzing it correctly?