Brunswick Elementary School is scheduled to be rebuilt within the next three years to address growth in the area, but it is possible the new building could open and the school would still be over-capacity.
School system officials shared this with the Frederick County Board of Education on Wednesday as they were presented with initial schematic designs for the new school.
Brunswick Elementary is currently over capacity by at least 200 students. The new school building, which is expected to open in fall 2023, would add an additional 217 seats. However, FCPS enrollment projections show the number of students at the school continuing to rise until at least 2029.
Paul Lebo, chief operating officer for FCPS, explained why the new school’s capacity was set at 725. He said every additional seat in a new school or in a renovation project must be justified to the state in order to receive the necessary funding.
“For this project, based on the adjacent schools...we were able to justify an additional  seats that the state would approve,” Lebo said.
Additionally, Lebo said the state simply will not participate in school construction projects any larger than what is proposed for Brunswick Elementary and that if the board wanted to build a larger school building it would have to ask the county for additional funding to support that desire. There would be implications to that request though, he said.
“Number one we would have to stop design...and any dollar we take away from the county to support this project then pushes other projects down the road,” Lebo said.
But requesting additional funds from the county for a school construction project was done once before and fairly recently, according to board member Brad Young. The Waverley Elementary School replacement project is currently underway and is scheduled to open next fall with a state-rated capacity of 1,019 students, making it the largest elementary school in the county.
“We had to go to the county and request that additional participation and the reason was because we needed the seats there and there weren’t any other locations, and so that’s why we did that,” Young said.
The replacement of Brunswick Elementary is not going to fully address the town’s growth.
“The board never said this was going to be the end-all. This was going to be the solution for Brunswick for the next decade, which is why we talked about Valley Elementary,” Lebo said.
Valley Elementary School, which is a direct feeder school to Brunswick Middle School and Brunswick High School, will soon undergo a feasibility study to determine whether the school can receive an addition, renovation or replacement.
Lebo said there is hope that whatever course of action is determined will increase that school’s capacity to at least 700 students and will therefore alleviate some future crowding at Brunswick Elementary.
Valley Elementary currently has a state-rated capacity of 500 students and enrollment for this year was 494 with projections showing declines over the next three years. Once it is expanded, some students who attend Brunswick Elementary could be redirected to Valley Elementary.
Lebo sought to reassure the board that Brunswick Elementary being over-capacity by a few students will not be impactful.
“While the state-rated capacity might be 725, if your enrollment is at 745, that doesn’t mean you would necessarily need a portable, because all of the students are not in a single grade...each classroom might have one more student,” Lebo said.
Additionally, due to the innovative design of the new building, space may not be an issue.
“The flexibility exists in the building for the principal to utilize some of those other spaces as classroom spaces to handle those surges in capacity when they occur,” Lebo said. “Being overcapacity doesn’t always equate to the need for portables.”
The replacement project for Brunswick Elementary is currently in the design phase, which will last through April. Initial mock-ups show the new school will be built behind the existing one and will be a partial, two-story building.
Construction is slated to begin in April 2022 with the school opening in August 2023.
The new school will be built while students continue to attend the existing Brunswick Elementary. After the new building is occupied, the existing school will be removed and the parking lot and bus loop will be completed—both of which will be situated in front of the new building.
Bob Mock, an architect with GWWO Architects — the company leading the project — said they felt it was necessary in the design to have all the students arrive at one entrance.
“The Brunswick community, there’s the old town where folks have been in the community for a long time and then there is a lot of folks that moved into the newer developments,” Mock said. “So we felt it was really important that all the students come into the building at the same time in the same way regardless of how they get there because...bringing those two community populations together was important to [the principal] and important to the success of the school.”
Mia Martinez, the student member of the board, said as a student who attended Brunswick Elementary, she is happy to see the forthcoming changes.
“I remember, when I went, we would have music class on the stage with the cafeteria right next to us, and just seeing the separation of the classrooms and where the gymnasium is...just seeing this is really nice,” she said.