WJ Cluster Updates

Update on Woodward High School

Updated as of September 1, 2019

Hello Kensington Parkwood ES Community!

Over this summer, MCPS took a significant step forward by proposing several alternative plans for re-opening Woodward High School that local PTA representatives believe are a significant departure from previous statements on the conceptualization and programming for the school. PTA cluster representatives are asking members and allies to contact elected school board officials about this issue and consider attending future MCPS/school board public hearings to ensure officials are aware of our community’s desire to ensure – among other issues – that MCPS at minimum ensure parity and equity between Woodward facilities/programming and all other high schools.

Background:

Woodward High School is currently scheduled to re-open for the 2025-2026 school year. That means that our current elementary school students could possibly attend Woodward for high school. We hope that you will work with us to ensure that MCPS designs Woodward as a world-class high school that any of us would be pleased for our children to attend.

July 29th Meeting Update:

MCPS presented some early “conceptual plans” for Woodward High School to the Board of Education. This included the possibility of not building Woodward, or potentially future MCPS high schools, with all of the amenities that are currently standard and included at all existing MCPS high schools. Specifically, MCPS floated with the Board the possibility of building Woodward without an athletic stadium. The Woodward site is on the smaller side and has a steep grade. There was also a discussion of space that would need to be available for parking on the site.

A PTA representative/WJ Cluster Coordinator also testified at the July 29 meeting that:

  1. the top priority of reopening Woodward should be to address the urgent space needs at Walter Johnson and in the Downcounty Consortium,
  2. parity of facilities, and specifically the athletic stadium, between Woodward and every other high school within MCPS is important, and
  3. community input is needed as MCPS plans move forward.

Bethesda Beat covered the July 29 meeting as well as Council member Andrew Friedson response. The full meeting is available for viewing online:

August 26 Meeting Update:

MCPS held a stakeholders meeting with community associations and some MCCPTA representatives (including the WJ Cluster Coordinators) to further explain its construction and design timeline for the Woodward project. At this meeting, MCPS clarified that it intends to build Woodward in two phases. Phase I will involve construction of the core academic space – classrooms, labs, administrative offices, gym, etc. Additional facilities, such as an auditorium, athletic fields/stadium/track, and any program-specific amenities, will be addressed in Phase II of Woodward’s construction. Our PTA representative/WJ Cluster raised concerns related to:

  • How community input and involvement can appropriately include impacted communities when MCPS has not yet determined how the school will be populated (who will go there).
  • Parity and equity between Woodward and all other high schools in MCPS essential.
  • Decisions on what will be included in Phase 2 should be made now as those decisions could have an impact on the Phase 1 design.

Timeline:

The anticipated timeline laid out by MCPS for construction of Woodward at the August 26 meeting was:

  • October 2019 – BOE approval of Phase I preliminary design plans
  • October 2019 – CIP includes full funding for Phase I design and construction
  • Summer 2020 – Tilden MS vacates the Woodward building
  • Winter 2020-2021 – demolition and site preparation work begin on the Woodward site
  • 2021 – spring 2023 – construction of Phase I of Woodward
  • Fall 2023 – Northwood High School moves into Phase I Woodward building as a “holding school” during reconstruction of Northwood High School building
  • Winter 2023-Spring 2025 – construction of Phase II of Woodward High school (while Northwood students are occupying the Phase I building)
  • Summer 2025 – Northwood High School moves back to its University Boulevard site
  • Fall 2025 – Woodward High School re-opening

Next Steps:

In the future, MCPS will be making decisions about Phase 2 funding for Woodward, specialized programming to be housed at Woodward, and what athletic and other amenities will be made available on site at Woodward. The school system is raising the question of whether it is reasonable to continue to provide each and every high school in the county with an athletic stadium, track, baseball and softball fields, and tennis courts. But, since space is less of an issue at the planned Crown High School site in Gaithersburg (scheduled to open in 2024), we are concerned that Woodward might end up being the only school without those comprehensive sports amenities for years and years to come.

We believe that MCPS and the Board of Education will need to hear from our community about the programming and amenity decisions that are yet to come. MCPS has assured the Board of Education that there will be a mechanism for community input and feedback. If you feel strongly about these issues, you can, of course, write to your elected officials. Again, the e-mail addresses for all eight Board of Education members are available here: https://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/boe/members/. As we learn about official attempts to “engage the community,” we will ensure that they are well publicized on all of our cluster’s list serves and through our individual PTAs.

Please also know that you can reach out to me with questions and concerns about Woodward! We are always looking for interested and dedicated people to participate in these meetings and conversations on behalf of our school and our cluster.

Best,

Kendall Watson

Kensington Parkwood ES PTA Cluster Representative

Walter Johnson Cluster Position on MCPS System-wide Boundary Analysis

Update as of 15 April 2019

The Montgomery County Public Schools Boundary Assessment Study of all current school boundaries “review” approved on Jan. 8, 2019, will examine ways in which any of MCPS's 206 school boundaries could potentially be moved to help ease overcrowding and increase socioeconomic and/or racial diversity at these schools. MCPS will hire a consultant to conduct the Review & they are scheduled to deliver the Review's findings/report to the School Board by Spring 2020.

The Review is NOT a "Boundary Study," (a different MCPS process that sets the boundaries of who will go to the school about a year before it opens). The entire WJ Cluster will undergo a Boundary Study a few years before Woodward High School is planned to reopen in 2025.

The WJ Cluster’s common position on the Review (which aligns with WJ Cluster advocacy over the past several years) includes (but is not limited to) the following three principles:

1) Any boundary changes must be predicated on accurate data. The WJ Cluster has expressed on several occasions, since the release of the most recent CIP, our belief that the numbers generated by MGT Consulting are seriously flawed. We have received no information that has allayed those concerns, in fact, what we have received from MCPS/MGT has only deepened our worries that flawed methodologies were used to make enrollment projections. Any Review on existing boundaries and their relevance for future enrollment growth and patterns should be based on the most accurate data available. Therefore, we urge this process to take a multi-faceted approach to data collection, working with M-NCPPC staff as well as MCPS and MGT staff, and to allow those in the community to have transparent access to the data. A failure to do so will lead to a lack of confidence in the result.

2) We continue to urge MCPS to sequence whatever changes which will flow from this Review of boundaries, including limited or wholesale boundary changes that will impact the Downcounty Consortium (DCC) area, with the reopening of Woodward High School and the new Northwood building in 2025. These are two major capital projects that will add thousands of seats in the southern part of the County. They could be the catalyst for a wholesale restructuring of boundaries, but the WJ Cluster would be gravely concerned about a significant boundary change in addition to the boundary changes when these two facilities open. Our community should not have to undergo these changes multiple times within the same few years.

3) We continue to respectfully request that students currently assigned to WJ be assigned to either WJ or Woodward. However, we continue to support the assignment of students to either the WJ or Woodward Clusters from areas currently outside the WJ catchment area.