An overview of the Montgomery County Public Schools boundary analysis

Nov. 7, 2019, 9:37 a.m. | By Shruti Chauhan | 4 years, 7 months ago

Why boundaries are being discussed and how they impact Blair.

For the first time in over 20 years, MCPS is taking a comprehensive look at school boundaries. The goal is multi-faceted: alleviating crowding problems, diversifying schools, and creating a more effective transportation pattern.

Former Student Member of the Board (SMOB) Ananya Tadikonda introduced the boundary issue to the Board of Education (BoE). The resolution― to bring in outside consultants to perform an analysis of whether existing school and cluster boundaries allow for effective use of school facilities―was approved on Jan. 8, 2019.  

An update on the progress of the boundary analysis was given at the BoE meeting on Oct 8. Essie McGuire, Executive Director of the Chief Operating Officer, outlined the eight month project work plan slated to be completed by June 2020. There are several overlapping data analysis and community engagement steps. 

Earlier this year, MCPS hosted a series of community meetings throughout the county to gather feedback about what the public would like to see as the focus of the analysis. At some meetings there was a lot of tension, with people fearing the movement of boundaries and fiercely objecting to an analysis taking place at all. At others, the public pushed for the analysis to focus on diversifying schools and eliminating crowding problems throughout the county.

These discussions involving the major themes of equitable resources for all students, diversifying schools and solving overcrowding problems, will continue. The analysis has sparked opposition between students pushing for increased diversity in schools and parents who fear long bus rides for their children or decreased home values if boundaries shift (law of supply and demand; if boundaries shift and change the zoning of highly ranked schools, people will look to buy houses in the new school zone).

According to the BoE the biggest issue when discussing boundary analysis is public misinformation. Jeanette Dixon, a member of the BoE, wants to put a halt to rumors that have no basis, but still surface anytime people discuss boundaries. “I do read the Bethesda Beat daily and the comments that are on [their stories] - some of them are quite offensive and prescribe motives to the Board that we don’t have,” Dixon says. Parents are concerned that the BoE wants to bus children from one side of the county to another or send their kids to a poorly ranked school. However, this is simply not going on right now. 

Smith echoes the need to advocate for correctness. “We need to blanket our community with accurate information. No one should be able to say we didn't know; they could say I disagree, but not I didn't have the information," Smith says. Resources will be coming out to keep the public informed, but it is a general necessity for people to stick to the facts.

To reiterate, the analysis is not going to make any recommendations on specific school boundaries. Rather, it simply focuses on specific factors that MCPS should take into consideration in future boundary decisions. Integrating schools and overcrowding seem to be the topics that are currently at the top of the list. 

So how does Blair fit in? Blair is the county’s highest populated school, with a student body of nearly 3400. It is nearing capacity, with 10 classes already being taught in portables. Furthermore, as of July 1, the county implemented a one year moratorium to build houses in the MBHS cluster, in attempts to prevent school overcrowding. 

Blair is overcrowded, with 10 classes already being taught in the portables (courtesy of Sydney Hastings-Wilkins). Photo courtesy of Sydney Hastings-Wilkins.

Blair’s population is projected to reach 3600 students in the next few years, but the current facility does not have the ability to accommodate that many students. On the other hand, schools further out have plenty of empty seats. Seneca Valley High School has a brand-new building designed for 2400 students, but only has around 1200 students enrolled. 

It is clear that this is a problem. Boundary analysis stands to solve issues exactly like this one. By recognizing all the flaws with the system in the status quo, MCPS will be in a better position to resolve them. To stay up-to-date with the analysis, visit the MCPS website or tune into BoE meetings. Alternatively, attend the public hearings on Nov. 18 to provide input.

Last updated: Nov. 7, 2019, 9:37 a.m.

Tags: Montgomery County Council

Shruti Chauhan. Hi, I'm Shruti and I'm a senior at Blair! Apart from writing for SCO, I enjoy playing tennis, biking, and watching Netflix. More »

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