The Montgomery County Council’s education committee has supported the inclusion of the Wheaton/Edison high schools modernization project in the county CIP, but backed off from regarding it as a clear priority, qualifying that it must still compete with other projects for funding.
Although County Executive Isiah Leggett recommended a one-year deferral for the project, the Board of Education unanimously called for completion by FY2015 for Wheaton High School and by FY2017 for Thomas Edison High School of Technology. In order to fund the Board of Education’s recommendations, the council would need to approve an additional $8 million in FY2013 and nearly $24 million in FY2014.
The county council staff recommended that “the Education Committee should note that this modernization is a priority and that the Council should consider adjusting other projects (within MCPS or elsewhere in the CIP) first.”
But Councilmember Phil Andrews disagreed.
“I think that as an aspirational goal, we should be on the Board of Education schedule, but that there are other very important projects as well that we need to reconcile, and that have also been deferred,” Andrews said at the March 19 worksession.
His motion was seconded by Councilmember Craig Rice.
“We know that by putting this back on track, that it’s competing with a lot of other projects. We are far, far from reconciliation,” Ervin said. Reconciliation refers to the need to rearrange money in the CIP, generally by taking it away from some projects in order to fund others.
Council Vice President Nancy Navarro attended the March 19 meeting, although she does not sit on the education committee. “We’ve been saying over and over, Wheaton’s time is now, because they have patiently waited,” Navarro said.
Christopher Barclay, the vice president of the Board of Education, reiterated the importance of the modernization project and why the board voted 8-0 to support it as a priority.
Wheaton High School has the lowest enrollment in the Downcounty Consortium, and it is the least chosen high school, according to Barclay, even though it has “fantastic programs.” One reason is that a high school’s physical appearance is a significant factor in attracting middle school students, he said.
"When it comes to Wheaton High School, I think we made a very clear statement," he said. "If you wanted the first on our priority list...one of those is Wheaton/Edison."