Schools and Growth, Part Four: Where are all these kids coming from?

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In previous posts, I documented six Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) clusters at risk of entering a development moratorium due to overcrowding. Enrollment in these clusters grew by 4,157 students between 2011 and 2015, yet only 184 of these students are living in the new multifamily residential buildings and townhomes constructed within the clusters during this period. That statistic means that new development was responsible for only about four percent of enrollment growth in these clusters, while the vast majority of the enrollment growth is coming from neighborhood turnover – that is to say, families with children moving into housing previously occupied by families without children.

I can’t say with certainty why these six clusters have experienced such … Continue reading

Schools and Growth, Part Three: New Development and Overcrowding

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When schools are overcrowded, it doesn’t much matter to children (and their parents) whether developers are paying their share of the cost of adding capacity, because kids need space in classrooms (along with gymnasiums and cafeterias) in order to learn and thrive. That’s why the county’s growth rules, known as the Subdivision Staging Policy or SSP, prohibit new residential development in any school cluster where the schools are at 120 percent of capacity.

The “annual school test,” which determines whether a school cluster goes into a residential development moratorium, is applied in July of each year. The impact of a development moratorium is felt as new residential projects in an area are put on hold and, in some cases, … Continue reading

Schools and Growth, Part Two: Student Generation Rates and Children Who Live in Apartments

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I often hear claims that the school impact tax rates charged to developers are based on faulty assumptions about the number of children who live in new housing units. While no one can predict exactly how many kids will live in a specific dwelling in the future, the methodology used to produce the generation rates used in school impact tax calculations is far more sophisticated and comprehensive than most people realize.

Every other year, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) provides the Planning Department with a dataset that includes the address and grade of every MCPS student (with all other identifying information scrubbed from the dataset). The Planning Department then cross-references this information with parcel data that identifies the type … Continue reading

Schools and Growth, Part One: Impact Taxes and School Construction

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Few topics in local government generate as much controversy and misunderstanding as the relationships among population growth, real estate development, school enrollment and impact tax revenue. I want to provide the data and background information needed to understand how – and how much – new development contributes toward the cost of providing classroom seats for schoolchildren.

I often hear people say that new residential development “doesn’t pay for itself,” by which I take them to mean that the cost of providing capacity for additional students coming from new development exceeds the revenue raised through school impact taxes.

In Montgomery County, school impact taxes are calculated to cover 120 percent of the cost of each additional seat generated by a new … Continue reading

From Corporate Offices to Centers of Learning

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Changes in work patterns and population growth are leading to new types of schools

Walking past 8000 Jones Branch Drive in Tysons Corner, it is easy to assume that offices occupy this regular, three-story building. Entering its light filled atrium, however, does not reveal a corporate lobby or water cooler talk, but a gathering space where hundreds of chattering students dart between classes and engage in extracurricular activities. Welcome to Basis Independent School, a new type of center for learning.

Basis Independent is a private K-12 school that sits within the 120,000 square feet of this former Tysons Corner office building. This renovation project was designed by the DC architecture firm Perkins Eastman with Gilbane as the design-build partner. While … Continue reading

New Geometry for a New Era: Sligo Adventist Elementary School (1963), 8300 Carroll Avenue, Takoma Park

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Montgomery County in the mid-century era experienced great change. Montgomery was the fourth fastest growing county in the nation. The population grew from less than 90,000 in 1946 to nearly 580,000 by 1974. Change also came in the pace of life, as cars and new highways enabled ever increasing speeds, but also in the scale of the perceived environment, as space exploration made the universe seem to be the limit. A new era called for new building forms, made possible with innovative technologies. By the early 1960s, architects were experimenting with a variety of roof forms.

The zigzag roof of the Sligo Adventist Elementary School must have been a striking contrast to the traditional flat roof schools that had … Continue reading

Round School

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The Bushey Drive Elementary School, in Wheaton, is a three-story, round school designed by Deigert and Yerkes in 1961.

As noted in my colleague’s recent post on round houses, round schools were also promoted for lower operating costs, greater efficiency, and lower building costs.  In this era, round and hexagonal schools were built across the country.

In plan, the school had a middle story with common rooms (kitchen, library, general purpose room) and offices, sandwiched between top and bottom floors of classrooms.

David Norton Yerkes and Robert C. Deigert were partners in a Washington DC firm from about 1946 to 1966.   In Montgomery County, projects designed by the firm include numerous custom houses … Continue reading