Frederick County Public Schools is projecting major enrollment growth over the next 10 years, according to the Superintendent’s Recommended Educational Facilities Master Plan (EFMP) for 2020.
The EFMP, which is updated annually, was presented to the Board of Education during their Wednesday meeting. The EFMP includes improvement projects the school system deems as needs over the next 10 years. The projects focus mainly on the condition of school buildings and any capital improvements deemed necessary.
Paul Lebo, chief operating officer for FCPS, presented the plan to the Board. He explained that staff is projecting enrollment growth over the next decade to parallel the growth the county saw in the 1990s, which is still considered the largest spike the school system ever saw.
FCPS currently has approximately 44,000 enrolled students. Based on the EFMP, FCPS staff is projecting there will 46,000 students by 2024 and 48,000 students by 2029.
According to Lebo, much of the growth will be seen in the eastern parts of the county and an additional pocket of growth in Brunswick. Elementary and high schools will be impacted most
However, Lebo said it is unclear what impact COVID-19 could have on this projected growth and longterm plans and developments within the county.
Due to this projected enrollment growth, various projects are planned to address capacity which will add about 2,300 new seats Lebo said.
These projects include the replacement of Waverley Elementary School and Brunswick Elementary School both of which are expected to be completed by 2024.
Staff is also recommending feasibility studies to be completed in fiscal year 2021 for Valley Elementary School and Green Valley Elementary School to assess what space additions are needed.
After the presentation, Board President Brad Young said the Board received many inquiries from the public regarding the Brunswick High School replacement project and why it had been pushed to the outer years of the EFMP.
In the 2019 facilities plan, the Brunswick High project was set to begin in 2022. According to this year’s document, it will begin in 2028.
Lebo explained that the positioning of projects within the EFMP is all dependent on funding.
“There is never enough funding to support all of our needs so none of these [projects] are a guarantee,” Lebo said.
He added that the re-positioning of projects is not solely based on monetary factors but also on facilities conditions.
“The current facilities condition index for Brunswick High School is 22 percent, that is in the poor rating,” Lebo said. “With the projects that moved ahead, specifically Brunswick Elementary, Green Valley Elementary, and Valley Elementary their facilities condition indexes are significantly higher and are in the critical range and all of them have significant enrollment challenges.”
Enrollment at Brunswick High is currently under capacity and even though there is growth in the Brunswick community, FCPS staff does not expect the enrollment of the school to exceed its state-rated capacity over the next 10 years, Lebo said.
The Board will receive public comment on the EFMP and vote on its approval at their June 24 meeting.
The plan will then move on to the county and state for review and approval.