WJ Cluster Updates
School Board Considers Amending School Construction Plans for WJ Cluster
The Montgomery County Board of Education (BOE) considered several amendments last week to the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) it approved this past November. Two amendments directly affect our Walter Johnson HS Cluster community:
- Delay the reopening of Woodward High School until 2026 (1 yr delay) as a "non-preferred" option that could be approved by the Montgomery County Council
- Select a dedicated development site as the future elementary school for the WJ & BCC clusters (the dedicated development sites under consideration are referred to in this report as the WMAL property, White Flint North and White Flint South)
For more detail, Bethesda Beat provided coverage of the proposed amendments here.
As you might recall, the PTA has been advocating for several years for both of these projects to open as soon as possible (as recently as late 2018, MCPS was telling us that Woodward would open in late 2022). The PTA is also advocating for the Grosvenor site as the preferred location for the cluster's 7th elementary school.
Our PTA leaders representing the WJ Cluster will testify at the next BOE public hearing on these issues. If you're interested in testifying, or simply just showing up in your WJ Green & support the PTA, here's the details:
Where: Carver Educational Services Center auditorium, 850 Hungerford Drive, Rockville
When: 6 p.m. Thursday, March 5
If you'd like to testify, you must register with the BOE ahead of time by using this link. A limited number of slots are available to speak and you must register before noon on March 4.
Complete survey on 7th Elementary School site location & Feb. 18 "Community Meeting" @NBMS
The Division of Construction is conducting a site selection survey for the Walter Johnson and Bethesda-Chevy Cluster communities. The survey can be accessed through the Division of Construction’s project webpage, or by using the following direct link:
This survey is essentially a re-do of our 2018 site selection committee, and KPES was represented on that panel by former KPPTA President Andy Van Horn. The 2018 site selection committee overwhelmingly favored the Grosvenor Elementary School site. This new survey replaces the committee format, and adds a few new sites to the selection of school sites, including locations in the BCC cluster and the Kensington Elementary School site on Summit Avenue in Kensington.
The PTAs for the WJ Cluster support selection of the Grosvenor Elementary School site. If you agree with the PTA & need no further information, the survey should take no more than 1 minute. Simply complete Questions 1&2, skip down to the Grosvenor questions (11-14) & complete them, (rating Grosvenor a 10) and then skip down to Question #44 & input Grosvenor & then submit the survey by clicking "Done."
If you prefer to review all of the sites & take more time on the survey, then please review the revised Site Selection Report by MCPS's contractor, DLR Group, here:
The survey will be available only from Feb. 4 through Feb. 25.
A combined Bethesda Chevy-Chase and Walter Johnson community meeting will be held on Feb. 18, 7 p.m. at North Bethesda Middle School. This will allow for further discussion of the survey and site presentation. Community members will be provided with an opportunity to ask questions as well as provide feedback.
For more information about the WJ/BCC 7th Elementary School project, please visit the project's homepage on the MCPS Division of Construction's website.
PARENTS NEEDED Feb. 7: County Council CIP Meeting
The Walter Johnson HS Cluster will be testifying on Feb. 6 before the County Council on the CIP budget. Testimony begins at 7 p.m.
What: Montgomery County Council CIP Budget Public Hearing
When: Thursday, Feb. 6 at 7 p.m.
Why: Walter Johnson HS is the second largest high school in the state by enrollment this year - and that's not by design! Our schools are badly overcrowded & we need more investment in new schools, starting with a new high school & elementary school in or near our cluster.
Where: Montgomery County Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Ave, Rockville 20850
Who: YOU! and your kids, if they can - Wear WJ green and stand to support our WJ Cluster leaders & parents as they testify.
We will be handing out green WJ Team signs.
Support WJ Cluster Schools Nov. 7: Attend CIP Hearing & Wear Your WJHS Green!
Our PTA is asking YOU to get involved by attending public hearings on the upcoming 2021-2026 Capital Improvements Program (CIP)/Master Plan.
MCPS Superintendent Dr. Jack Smith released his recommended CIP on Oct. 25. Years of PTA advocacy around overcrowding in our schools have helped prompt this year's proposals for planning a new elementary school and a plan to re-open a brand-new Woodward High School - which our elementary school children in the WJ Cluster could attend as school boundaries are reviewed. But our work isn't done yet - the plan to re-open Woodward is proposed as a phased project and is partially unfunded, risking development of key infrastructure at the new school which are considered standard facilities at other local high schools: A stadium, auditorium, ball fields, and an auxiliary gym, among other improvements.
Please support the PTA & attend and participate in the Thursday, Nov. 7 meeting (6 p.m.) at the MCPS Carver Educational Services Center on 850 Hungerford Drive in Rockville, MD. PTA representatives and members from the WJ Cluster are already scheduled to speak (if interested, sign up in advance to speak by using the link below - speaking slots are limited).
We've found that showing up in person wearing your WJ Green is a very effective way of sending a message to the Board of Education, so please consider attending! If you can't make it Nov. 7, please consider one of the other upcoming Board of Education Public Meetings:
Monday, Nov. 4, 2019 @ 10 a.m. – CIP Work Session
Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019 @ 6 p.m. – CIP Public Hearing
Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019 @ 6 p.m. – CIP/Forest Knolls, Montgomery Knolls, Pine Crest Boundary Study Public Hearing
Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 @ 2 p.m. – CIP Work Session
Please check the BOE website for up-to-date calendar of meetings and to sign up should you wish to testify at any of the scheduled meetings. The BOE website is: https://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/boe/community/participation.aspx
WJ Cluster Elementary School Overcrowding
BCC/WJ Joint Cluster Capacity Study Results Meeting
When: Mon, October 14, 6:00pm – 7:30pm
Where: Ashburton Elementary School, 6314 Lone Oak Dr, Bethesda, MD 20817, USA
This past summer, MCPS Division of Construction contracted with a noted architectural firm to study capacity issues at elementary schools in the Walter Johnson (WJ) and Bethesda-Chevy Chase (B-CC) clusters. On Monday, Oct. 14 the results of the study will be presented to the public in the WJ Cluster.
The MCPS Division of Construction will make recommendations based on the results of this study. Recommendations COULD include boundary studies, renovations to existing schools and/or construction of a new elementary school that would jointly serve the Walter Johnson and B-CC clusters. It is very important for WJ cluster families to learn about recent developments and to participate in this significant conversation.
Update on Woodward High School
Updated as of September 22, 2019
MCPS has begun a process to begin planning for the reopening of Woodward High School on Old Georgetown Road, and is scheduling a series of public meetings and discussions around the concept and programming of the new high school. The Walter Johnson Cluster of PTAs has advocated for a common position for our community since early 2016. Our Position on Woodward is as follows:
- Woodward High School should be re-opened in order to remedy anticipated overcrowding at Walter Johnson High School;
- All households currently districted to Walter Johnson should be assigned to either Walter Johnson or Woodward High Schools; and
- Woodward and Walter Johnson High Schools should be designed to provide equivalent opportunities to students at each 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.
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:
- the top priority of reopening Woodward should be to address the urgent space needs at Walter Johnson and in the Downcounty Consortium,
- parity of facilities, and specifically the athletic stadium, between Woodward and every other high school within MCPS is important, and
- 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:
- https://mcpsmd.new.swagit.com/videos/30331 (full meeting; Woodward is Item 8.1, about 1.5 hours into the meeting; WJ Cluster testimony is in Item 5.2, about 10 minutes into the meeting).
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.
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
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.
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.