Future School Capacity Report Generates Discussion

It says new schools will be needed that could cost up to $510-million.


Frederick, Md (KM). A future school capacity report covering the next 20 to 30-years presented to the Frederick County Council on Tuesday generated some discussion.

Janice Spiegel, the county’s Education Liaison, outlined the “The School Capacity Needs Analysis of Approved Residential Pipelines.” It says as of April 1st, 2017, the county has 21,428 dwelling units which have been approved but have not yet been permitted. Those homes, the report says,  are expected to generate 9.748 additional students. This is all expected to take place over the next 20 to 30-years.

The report says the county needs to plan for a reconstructed Urbana Elementary School with 725 seats, a reconstructed Waverly Elementary School with 725 seats and new East County Area Elementary School. Those three projects are listed in the County Capital Improvements Program. But, Spiegel says, the report calls for six new elementary schools each with 725 seats, a 300-seat addition to Crestwood Middle School, a 300-seat addition to Oakdale Middle School, a new  900-seat middle school and a future 1600-seat high school.

Spiegel all of that is expected to cost $510-million dollars.

Councilman Tony Chmelilk took issue with the report, calling some of it “misleading” to the public. “I have no problem with people projecting something and saying ‘hey, we are going to need more schools.’ I understand that. I think that as a tool to use for this county, I think that’s inadequate, and I would prefer it to be more thorough,” he said.

Spiegel said she consulted with the School System before drafting this report. “I’m sorry that you don’t like the report. I’m not surprised you don’t like the report. I did watch your first meeting when you received the report so I did get your general message,” she responded. Spiegel also said the report is a planning tool and not a budget document.

Councilman Kirby Delauter was skeptical that this projected increase in the student population. “We do have to  plan, and I’m okay with that. I’m all on board with that,” he said. “I want to take away that argument that the sky is falling. It’s not. It’s not. The numbers clearly show that we’re spending less then we did ten years ago. Our spending is up. Our budgets are up and we’re not doing that.”

Compared with the estimated $510-million the state and county may need to pay for new schools and expanded capacity at current facilities, Delauter said the County’s Capital Improvements Plan totaled $885-million between fiscal years 2008-13. “History has told us over 16-years that we’re 100% wrong,”: he said. “I think the number is telling people that we have a problem when maybe we might have a problem, but not as big a problem as presented.”

“Again, this is a planning tool. It’s not designed to be a budget tool. It’s a planning tool. used just to estimate the number of school seats that may be need to accommodate the development that’s already been approved but yet built, or permitted,” says Spiegel.


By Kevin McManus