Three Montgomery County Council members and the County Planning Board sent the public schools superintendent a letter Monday asking what land the school system will use to add room for students in school clusters.
Leventhal, who served as the Council president until Dec. 1, said the request does not have a deadline.
Pat O’Neill, Board of Education president, said the board’s discussion of plans for anticipated capacity issues is ongoing, but the board submitted possible solutions, a list of MCPS properties no longer serving as schools and a list of possible future school locations, before the MCPS superintendent received the letter.
Leventhal distributed copies of a memo from Superintendent Larry Bowers from September that included the list of 45 closed school sites.
The board currently owns 15 and the other 30 were transferred to Montgomery County government, Bowers said in the memo.
Planning Board chairman Casey Anderson and Council members George Leventhal (D), Roger Berliner (D-1) and Craig Rice (2) said they wanted to know how Montgomery County Public Schools plans to alleviate overcrowding at the Walter Johnson, Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Whitman clusters.
According to the letter, officials from the Council, the Planning Department and the Parks Department need to know MCPS’ plans to address overcrowding from the 2017-2022 capital improvements plan.
“These options for medium to long-term school capacity are especially important in the Walter Johnson, Whitman, and Bethesda-Chevy Chase clusters, where redevelopment interest is strong and land use is scarce,” said Anderson in the letter.
The officials also wanted to verify the Board of Education has a plan for those clusters 10 years from now, said Melissa McKenna, the County council of PTAs chairman of the MCPS capital improvements program.
The Board of Education voted unanimously for the Department of Long-Range Planning to host a round table discussion with students of the cluster and their parents, Walter Johnson cluster PTA members and residents of the cluster on possible solutions to add capacity to the cluster.
The discussion would be led by Bruce Crispell and his staff, O’Neill said.
O’Neill said a date for the roundtable is to be determined.
The Board of Education would not be able to make a decision about addressing the Walter Johnson Cluster until after the discussion.
Walter Johnson High School enrolled 2,289 students, said Keira Kinsey-Nahar, administrative assistant for the school.
According to the MCPS Schools at a Glance for the 2014-2015 school year, the school has a capacity for 2,345.
Representatives of the MCPS Department of Long-Range Planning predicted the school would not be large enough to hold all the students in the future, given slated developments in the area.
During the two hearings preceding the school board approving its capital improvements program Nov. 16, board members considered additions and re-opening a closed MCPS school property.
McKenna said the Board of Education included funding for a Walt Whitman High School addition.
According to the letter, the Planning Board will be working on plans for future communities such as Westbard, Downtown Bethesda, Greater Lyttonsville, Rock Spring and White Flint II, which would be served by the three clusters mentioned.
“We need the support and assistance of MCPS in developing specific and achievable recommendations for school capacity in each area where development is anticipated,” said the planning board chairman and three council members in the letter.
Board of Education president Pat O’Neill earlier sent Leventhal a list of MCPS properties not being used as schools by MCPS.
McKenna said the Planning Board wanted to be assured Board of Education members are coming up about solutions to capacity issues beyond the six-year period of the Capital Improvements Plan.
As long as there is a plan in place, the County Council will consider the cluster to be “taken care of,” McKenna said.
If the board scheduled a feasibility study for a future school location but did not yet make plans for a school construction project, that would still count as a plan.
“A feasibility study guarantees nothing,” McKenna said.