Published on: Friday, July 28, 2023 News

How Does the Minor Master Plan Address Public-School Capacity?


Source: Montgomery County Planning

Planning for adequate public school facilities is a joint effort between Montgomery Planning and the Division of Capital Planning and Real Estate at Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). MCPS planners project student enrollment for the near future at the countywide and individual school levels and develop strategies and long-range facility plans to meet capacity needs appropriately. They also coordinate relevant county and state budgets for the six-year Capital Improvements Program (CIP) and publish the Educational Facilities Master Plan annually. 

Montgomery Planning administers the Annual School Test based on MCPS’ projections and scheduled CIP projects and conducts a School Adequacy Analysis for development applications accordingly. Planning staff also produce student generation rates and relevant housing data, which is shared with MCPS to inform their forecasting and facility planning efforts as well. When a master plan is underway, Montgomery Planning collaborates with MCPS regarding the plan’s potential impact on public school enrollment. To estimate the potential impact, a maximum build-out scenario is hypothesized in which the residential capacity of each parcel is built out to the full extent allowed, and the number of students that can be generated from that scenario is calculated.

Based on this Plan’s max build-out scenario, the enrollment impact can be estimated between:

  • 120 to 350 elementary students
  • 50 to 180 middle school students
  • 50 to 150 high school students

The lower range of the estimates assumes that new residential development will be multi-family buildings that generate the lowest number of students. The higher range of the estimates assumes that new residential development will be multi-family buildings that generate a higher number of students. For additional information, please see the 2020 Growth and Infrastructure Policy. 

In reality, it is difficult to gauge the number and type of residential units that will be built and the pace and context of development. Furthermore, master plans generally envision a 20–30-year timeline, whereas MCPS uses six-year projections to determine its capital budget and CIP. Therefore, a plan’s estimated enrollment impact alone will not warrant immediate action by MCPS to request capital investment in schools serving the area. Instead, MCPS will continue to monitor actual enrollment trends as residential development appears and reflect the change in its projections annually. In the meantime, Montgomery Planning will continue to evaluate the projected utilization levels of schools through the Annual Schools Test and impose Utilization Premium Payments appropriately on residential units proposed in school service areas projected to be overutilized. 

For more information on growth and infrastructure planning for schools, visit the Montgomery County Planning Website.

For information specific to the Takoma Park Minor Master Plan Amendment, see the Plan Appendix.