As housing developments boom, WJ faces severe overcrowding


Jeffrey Cirillo, Co-Online News Editor

From the new high-rises on Rockville Pike to the swanky townhouses on Old Georgetown Road, new residential developments are popping up all over the county. To some, these gleaming new buildings are exciting additions to a growing neighborhood, but to others, they represent unwelcome change at a startling pace. But whether we like them or not, the influx of construction projects poses a definite problem for the WJ community: overcrowding. With thousands of new families moving into the Walter Johnson area, concern is growing over how to accommodate the wave of new students in local schools.

A Montgomery County Planning Board study predicts that the WJ student population will be 19.8% over the school’s maximum capacity by 2020. If true, this would make WJ the most overcrowded school in the county. By county regulation, if any school exceeds the 20% over-capacity mark, all residential developments in the area must cease until the school is expanded.

WJ junior Katie Ellett, who has a younger brother entering high school, is worried about the effect of overcrowding on class sizes on younger students’ education.

“I’m concerned because with all these extra students, the classes will be overpopulated,” Ellett said. “Classes already have a lot of people in them; now there are going to be [even more].”

Some students, like senior Valeria Kaufman, do not want concerns about overcrowding to interfere with new developments.

“Overcrowding is definitely a problem,” Kaufman said, “but I love all the new developments like Pike and Rose. I think the county has to deal with overcrowding without getting in the way of new developments.”

Meetings regarding a WJ expansion project are currently in progress. No official plan has been confirmed, but school officials are expecting a 38-classroom expansion to the school’s East wing, the side of the school that faces Georgetown Square. The construction project is to be included in the Montgomery County Public Schools Fiscal Year 2017 budget.

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