Superintendent Smith’s Visit to Town Commissioner Forum fails to move forward Capital Improvements agenda.

On January 22, 2018, Superintendent of schools Dr. Jack Smith paid a visit to a packed Poolesville Town Commissioner meeting hall to discuss and answer questions on Poolesville’s status in the new Capital Improvements Plan. The meeting came after the Board of Education passed FY 2019 Capital Budget and FY 2019-2024 Capital Improvements Program earlier this school year.

Superintendent Smith, along with Chief Operating Officer Dr. Andrew Zuckerman, and executive director of the office of the chief operating officer, Essie McGuire, provided a presentation explaining new themes of the Capital Improvements Program, specifically the focus on alleviating overcrowding issues.

Whereas previously, there was a static model consisting of one score that determined placement on the queue for projects, with the new plan, school officials are looking to change up the way they rank expansion and rehabilitation projects in line for funding. This may be good or bad news for the Poolesville community.

“[Since] the old scores were decades old, [perhaps] the new fresh numbers would show that [the condition]’s worse than they thought it was,” says teacher advocate Mr. Dan Savino. On the other hand, the town is left with less assurance of a near future project, because improvements or replacement of the PHS facility would not be known until the implementation of the two new policies to determine ranking. There are five revitalization/expansion projects that have funding and are currently underway, while PHS is one of many that have been identified, but have not yet gone through inspection.

“We’re getting to the point where we can’t put lipstick on a pig,” expressed one passionate community member. Despite decades of advocacy, Poolesville has failed to see meaningful change in the county’s actions. Even after testifying and showing out in large numbers at the November 2017 budget hearing at the Board of Education, Poolesville was not granted a single dollar of funding for the next six years. And while the county’s new capital budget expands an additional $86 million to the current plan and includes 30 capacity projects systemwide, including several new schools and schools addition projects, the budget leaves no room for small town Poolesville.

“We went from having a set date to the classic ‘TBD;’ so [in that sense] it was kind of bad news,” said longtime PHS teacher Mr. Dan Savino, who has been active in the fight.

Based on the MCPS staff’s presentation, it seems that PHS has largely not been considered or granted funding for renovations or a new building because the new criterion prioritizes overcrowding — an issue that PHS does not face presently or in the near future according to MCPS projections of school enrollment. One of the topics brought up at the meeting was the idea of constructing a multi-purpose building that would function as not only a high school but also a community center, in hopes that such a project would better warrant funding and county attention and better serve the town.

There was one piece of important overall good news, which came directly from Dr. Smith who unequivocally stated that the magnet programs at PHS will remain unchanged for the foreseeable future.