Montgomery Planning Report Identifies Areas Where New Residential Development Should Pause Due to Public School Overcrowding

June 25, 2020

Subdivision Staging Policy

Montgomery County Planning Board approves FY2021 Annual School Test results: Service areas for two school clusters and four individual schools go under residential development moratoria

SILVER SPRING, MD – On Thursday, June 25, the Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, presented to the Montgomery County Planning Board its annual evaluation of the balance between the capacities of county public school facilities and new residential development. The FY2021 Annual School Test results identify two school cluster service areas and four individual school service areas to be in residential development moratorium as of July 1, 2020.

View the FY21 Annual School Test staff report from the June 25 Planning Board Meeting.

The test is a primary component of the county’s Subdivision Staging Policy (SSP), which evaluates the adequacy of public schools to accommodate student enrollments from new residential developments. The test results are approved each June after the county’s capital budget and the Montgomery County Public Schools’ Capital Improvements Program (CIP) are adopted by the Montgomery County Council. The results take effect at the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.

The draft update to the SSP, which has a proposed name change to the County Growth Policy, is concurrently being reviewed by the Planning Board. If the policy update results in changes to the Annual School Test methodology, there will be a revised FY2021 Annual School Test conducted accordingly. The results approved on Thursday will remain in effect until the County Council adopts the updated policy in November 2020.

Highlights of the FY2021 Annual School Test

The FY21 results identify two cluster service areas and four individual school service areas that will be in residential development moratorium.

  • Cluster Service Areas in Moratorium: The Richard Montgomery and Quince Orchard cluster service areas will be subject to a moratorium due to their high school facilities each exceeding the 120 percent utilization rate threshold.
  • Individual School Service Areas in Moratorium: Argyle MS, Highland View ES, Mill Creek Towne ES, and Judith A. Resnik ES service areas will be subject to moratoria due to their facilities exceeding both the 120 percent utilization rate and school-level seat-deficit thresholds. There are no capacity solutions approved or funded in the CIP for these schools to be completed within the test’s five-year timeframe.

The FY21 results identify three cluster service areas and five individual school service areas that will avoid moratorium.

  • Cluster Service Areas Open Conditionally: Three cluster service areas will avoid moratorium due to planned CIP projects at other clusters that will relieve the projected overcrowding through future reassignment of students. These areas are the Montgomery Blair, Albert Einstein, and Walter Johnson clusters.
  • Individual School Service Areas Open Conditionally: Five elementary school service areas will avoid moratorium due to planned CIP projects at other schools that will relieve the projected overcrowding through future reassignment of students. These schools are Rachel Carson ES, Clarksburg ES, JoAnn Leleck ES, Strawberry Knoll ES, and Summit Hall ES.

Testing Adequacy at Cluster and School Levels

Under the current SSP, the Annual School Test results determine if and when new residential subdivisions in any school service area should be subject to a development moratorium based on the projected utilization of public school facilities five years in the future. Public school utilization projections are derived from projected student enrollment and program capacity. The FY21 test is based on the projected utilization of school facilities for the 2025-26 school year.

The Annual School Test is conducted in two tiers to evaluate the adequacy of school facilities at the cluster level and at each individual school level.

The cluster-level test evaluates capacity adequacy across elementary, middle, and high schools in a cluster to determine cluster-wide residential development moratoria. When the cumulative school utilization rate of a cluster is projected to be greater than 120 percent at any school level five years in the future, residential subdivision approvals by the Planning Board are halted in that cluster service area.

The school-level test evaluates the capacity adequacy of individual elementary and middle schools to determine residential development moratoria in their respective school service areas. At the elementary school level, if the projected utilization rate is greater than 120 percent and the deficit of seats is projected to be 110 or more, then a residential development moratorium is imposed in that elementary school service area. At the middle school level, if the projected utilization rate is greater than 120 percent and the deficit of seats is projected to be 180 or more, then a moratorium is imposed in that middle school service area.

Applications for new residential subdivisions within an area under moratorium can still be submitted to the Planning Board for preliminary plan approval but cannot be approved until the moratorium is lifted. The SSP currently allows exceptions from the moratorium if a project meets one of the following criteria: age-restricted (senior) housing projects; residential developments with a net increase of three units or fewer; or projects meeting certain conditions pertaining to student generation, condemned properties or housing affordability. Any residential development application that received its preliminary plan approval prior to July 1, 2020 can also continue as planned as long as the approval has not expired. Otherwise, absent any amendments to the CIP by the Council, the results of the FY 2021 Annual School Test will remain in effect until the updated policy is adopted in November.

For more information on the Annual School Test, the FY21 results, placeholders and student generation rates, please visit https://montgomeryplanning.org/planning/functional-planning/subdivision-staging-policy/schools/annual-school-test/.