More than 156,000 students returned to school on Monday, August 31, representing an enrollment increase of more than 2,600 students from last year, according to MCPS officials. This marks the largest student enrollment in MCPS history.
To accommodate for the rise in enrollment, MCPS has opened an additional 90,000 square feet of instruction space, including projects currently in construction. At a news conference joined by county, state, and school officials today at Wheaton Woods Elementary School, Interim Superintendent Larry Bowers expressed the need for more facilities to sustain the enrollment growth.
“We will fight this year to make sure we have the capital and operating budget needed in order to provide for an appropriate school environment,” said Bowers.
“I brag constantly about our school system, but I cannot continue to hold that flag up unless we are prepared to provide the resources we always talk about,” said County Executive Ike Leggett.
The 2015-2016 school year follows an adjusted bell schedule with high schools starting at 7:45 AM and middle schools starting at 8:15 AM. While many enjoyed the additional twenty minutes of sleep, others felt little difference.
“I’m mostly concerned about the traffic,” said Megan Mao, a Roberto Clemente parent, “my daughter didn’t get up any later because I knew the travel time would likely be longer.”
Earlier today, two school buses collided into each other on Glen Road in Potomac while en route to Churchill High. Two out of seventeen students evaluated at the scene suffered injuries but did not need to be sent to the hospital.
At the press conference, Board of Education president Patricia O’Neill stated that MCPS is considering limiting standardized testing for middle and high school students. Currently, the Board is discussing whether to replace end-of-semester exams with quarterly tests or portfolios for high school students. Such changes may necessitate reforms in grading policies.
The Board will also resume its search for a new superintendent to succeed Bowers, said O’Neill.
Though school has begun, for many, the ‘real crunch’ of the academic year doesn’t start until after Labor Day weekend. As many students have put it, the first day is reserved for reunions.