PGCPS outlines FY 2017 Educational Facilities Master Plan
Department of Capital Programs officials outline 20-year plan for modernizations, renovations/additions and new construction of district schools
The Educational Facilities Master Plan (EFMP) for fiscal year 2017 marks the beginning of a major change in the way Prince George’s County Public Schools is planning for the future. It proposes a proactive and comprehensive strategy to address the current and future facilities needs of aging inventory and growing communities. Rather than long lists of systemic replacement projects that just brush the surface of schools’ needs, the 20-year plan proposes a renovation program to upgrade both the physical and educational deficiencies of every school built before 1999, according to the PGCPS Department of Capital Programs website.
Firmly aligned with the PGCPS Strategic Plan, the 2015 Comprehensive 5-Year Bridge to Excellence Master Plan and the Comprehensive Maintenance Plan, the EFMP will be used as the basis for prioritizing projects in developing the annual six-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).
The cost for this holistic approach is significant – more than $8 billion will be needed over 20 years for modernizing more than 133 schools, constructing new schools, reorganizing sixth grade to middle schools and conducting planning studies to consider boundary changes and consolidations, according to an executive summary in the PGCPS FY 2017 Preliminary EFMP report.
“This year’s master plan is comprehensive in the sense that it’s a result of our current Master Plan Support Project [MPSP] study that was done last year,” Rupert McCave, a CIP officer for PGCPS, said in a phone interview. “In the MPSP, we have three different cycles that we are looking at right now for capital investments and to meet all the programs that we have.”
The capital program recommendations are broken down into cycles 1, 2, 3 and 4 with improvement projects taking place in FY 2017-2022, FY 2023-2028, FY 2029-2034 and FY 2035 and beyond, respectively. MPSP was started by the school system in 2014 to develop a process for prioritizing school construction and renovation projects. Project priorities are based on three things which includes mission, condition and function.
First, the support project
evaluates school buildings based on their ability to support PGCPS initiatives listed in the master plan such as expanding language immersion programs and pre-kindergarten, implementing career academies in high schools and integrating special education programs. Secondly, it updates the 2012 facility condition index to reflect projects that will be completed in 2015.
Thirdly, the MPSP evaluates all school buildings built before 1999 based on their ability to meet local, state and national educational standards, according to the school system’s website.
PGCPS not only uses the support project to help determine what projects are needed and when they should be done, but also as a resource to inform decisions on school closures, boundary changes and other planning recommendations, McCave noted.
“In the current [FY 2017] CIP that you have seen and [is pending approval by the county’s Board of Education], it includes cycle one projects that we have been telling all stakeholders the results from the MPSP analysis,” McCave said. “In that plan, we have high schools, elementary schools and middle schools [that need to be modernized, renovated, require additions or replacing]. It’s not just set in one area and it’s not central or south; it’s comprehensive. … It’s a mixed bag of projects sort of speak.”
The MPSP includes four different types of modernization projects. A full renovation/ replacement indicates the need for comprehensive renovations and reconfigurations or a complete replacement. A limited renovation indicates a need to replace more than five major systems and for minor reconfigurations to accommodate modern building standards. A systems replacement indicates a need to replace fewer than five major systems and for minor reconfigurations. Other project types may include small recommendations that are needed to ensure school buildings meet future needs. If any school needs an expansion, an addition is recommended, according to a program support fact sheet.
Recommendations in the support project include building one new elementary school in the central region, as well as two new elementary schools, three new middle schools and two new high schools in the northern region. Consultants also recommended 29 school consolidations to occur over the next 18 years. Those consolidations include 26 elementary schools – two in northern, 13 in central and 11 in southern regions – and three high schools, one in central region and two in southern region. Although the school district does not concur with all of the consultants’ recommendations, it does agree that, where feasible, it must take action to address excess capacity. Closing those schools will save over $600 million in capital costs, according to the 2015 MPSP final report.
To ensure individual capital projects and related master planning activities are implemented in coordination as well as to make certain that the mission-based principles are applied equitably across the district, individual schools in the FY 2017 EFMP are organized geographically by 40 Planning Areas, or PAs, with their corresponding region and boundary code. There are three high school PAs, four middle school PAs and 33 PAs for elementary and other school types including academies. PAs are generally grouped into three major regions of the county—northern region which includes PAs 1-14, 34 and 38; central region which includes PAs 15-23, 35-36 and 39; and southern region which includes PAs 24-33, 37 and 40.
For FY 2017-2022, southern region schools listed in cycle 1 of the improvement plan – which need either a full renovation or replacement – include Benjamin Stoddert Middle, Suitland High, Drew-Freeman Middle, Gwynn Park High, Rose Valley Elementary, Gwynn Park Middle and Potomac Landing Elementary schools.
“We’re trying to break them out so that people see that there’s a certain fairness and transparency to where the projects are located in the county,” said PGCPS Planner II Elizabeth Chaisson. “We’ve been building new schools. Most of these modernizations have to have feasibility studies done. So they may or may not, depending on the outcome of the feasibility study, be replaced with a brand new school. We’re either going to gut the school and do major renovations or we might have to tear down and start over.”
When it comes to the FY 2017-2022 improvement plan, McCave said there are 33 modernization/replacement projects waiting to be funded. Among the schools scheduled for service include Berwyn Heights, Calverton, Cherokee Lane, James Duckworth, Hyattsville, Longfields, Margaret Brent, Potomac Landing, Riverdale, Rogers Heights, Rose Valley, Springhill Lake and Templeton Elementary schools; Benjamin Stoddert, Benjamin Tasker, Charles Carroll, Drew Freeman, Gwynn Park, Hyattsville, Kenmoor, Thomas Johnson, Walker Mill and William Wirt Middle schools; Gwynn Park, High Point and Suitland High schools; the Frances Fuchs Early Childhood Center; the William Schmidt Outdoor Educational Center; plus the construction of one new elementary school, two new middle schools, one new high school and the International High School at Langley Park, according to a master plan powerpoint presentation.
Over the next six years, PGCPS will schedule a minimum of 10 more planning area studies. Other actions include boundary or program changes, grade reorganizations, co-locations and capacity reductions during renovation to ‘right size’ for the enrollment. Planning studies will look at a variety of factors such as student enrollment trends, school building capacities, capacity utilization rates, transportation, educational programming and academic performance, demographic composition of the student body, financial considerations and community input.
As the school system moves forward in resourcing and implementing its strategic priorities, McCave said it is clear that the district is committed to being ‘great by choice’ and will turn challenges into opportunities.
Through its strategic focus on organizational effectiveness, the master plan will accelerate the number of safe and supportive environments conducive to academic excellence, he said.
“I think it meets the promise,” said McCave. “People really understand that to make this thing work, we need a whole lot more money. I think that’s very significant and is clearly set up and understood by all.”