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Sign our petition!

Hello MoCo! Montgomery County Public Schools has added 11,000 students in the past 10 years, but has never taken a comprehensive look at enrollment growth and school capacity. That’s why, for the first time in decades, MCPS is conducting a countywide school boundary analysis

The Board of Education has hired a consulting firm, WXY, to look at the way MCPS draws school boundaries, collect community feedback, and provide insights on how the school system could improve its boundary-drawing process. This analysis will provide an independent, data-driven look at some of the big issues affecting MCPS, such as:

  • How efficiently we’re using our school buildings. This year, 10,000 students attend classes in portables, while there are nearly 10,000 empty seats across the system. MCPS spends millions of dollars on new schools or additions when nearby schools have space.
  • How to reduce de facto segregation. Today, Black and Latino students, and students from low-income backgrounds are clustered in a handful of schools, which contributes to both opportunity and achievement gaps. MCPS has invested considerable resources to help students from all backgrounds succeed wherever they are, but studies show that students of all backgrounds perform best in diverse schools. 
  • How far students are traveling to school. As Montgomery County has grown, school boundaries haven’t caught up. As a result, more than a third of students aren’t attending the school closest to their home (not counting those in magnet or choice programs), which means more time and money spent traveling to and from school.

A group opposing the analysis has spread rumors that it will redraw school boundaries or bus students long distances. Neither is true. This analysis will not change school boundaries or even recommend any specific boundary changes.

If you agree that data-informed policy, equitable public education, and fiscal responsibility matter,  here are five things you can do:

Join hundreds of people who have signed our letter to Board of Education President Shebra Evans and Superintendent Jack Smith in support of the boundary analysis. (Click here for the sign-on letter)

Come to a meeting on the boundary analysis this winter, where you can learn about the process and give your feedback:

  • January 7, Walter Johnson High School, 7-9 p.m.
  • January 11, Montgomery Blair High School, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • January 14, Northwest High School, 7 p.m. -9 p.m.

Come hear the Board of Education discuss the analysis at their next meeting, January 9 from 11 a.m. to 1 pm. at the MCPS central office, 850 Hungerford Drive in Rockville.

Share this with your friends, neighbors, PTSA, or anyone else who may be interested. Remember, strong schools benefit everyone, even those who don’t have kids in public schools!

Sign on!

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Boundaries Education policy Montgomery County Uncategorized

Why should Montgomery County consider changes to school boundaries?

Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville.
  1. What’s wrong with the current setup of Montgomery County Public Schools? The current school boundaries are outdated and often illogical. They have led to wasteful spending to expand schools, often in the wealthiest areas of the county, while forcing older schools to wait many years for renovation or replacement.The last countywide boundary change happened in the 1980s, when MCPS closed more than 60 schools as enrollment dropped to about 90,000 and the county population was about 600,000. Today, the population is 1.2 million and growing. School enrollment has surged to more than 165,000, while boundaries remain largely unchanged. 
  2. Why shouldn’t we just spend money to fix aging schools? Our resources are not infinite. A school system with a growing population and serious crowding issues should not simultaneously have schools operating at well below capacity. But in recent years, boundaries have only been changed when new schools opened.  As a result, some schools are at more than 150 percent of capacity with up to 14 portable classrooms at a single school, even when there is space at nearby schools. Check out this interactive map to see for yourself.
  3. Why would we want to put more kids on buses? The status quo does not do a good job of providing walkable schools for our children. It results in many families being farther away from their children’s schools than they should be: Among non-magnet students, 37% of elementary students, 45% of middle school students and 38% of high school students do not attend the closest school, according to MCPS data. 
  4. Isn’t it expensive to make big changes to the system? A systematic boundary assessment is fiscally responsible. We simply do not have the wherewithal to avoid this study,  as the impact of avoiding a system-wide boundary assessment for more than 30 years has been a poor use of taxpayer dollars. MCPS houses 10,000 students in more than 400 portables, at a cost of $5 million per year. At the same time, MCPS has a $790 million backlog of systemwide repair and maintenance needs. Other school districts, such as neighboring Howard County, Fairfax County, and Baltimore County have performed boundary analyses as a matter of fiscal responsibility.  School officials have proposed $1.82 billion in capital improvements without a clear plan to raise the money. While the state has promised a big funding increase, any increase will need to be matched by Montgomery County. That means we need to use our money wisely.
  5. How big is this problem?  Our schools are overcrowded by nearly 11,000 students in about half the schools and face under-enrollment of more than 9,300 in the other half. The mismatch at the school level has been persistent for years. In some parts of the county, overcrowded schools have caused county planners to put a temporary hold on approving much-needed new housing, which puts further pressure on an already expensive and tight housing market.
  6. Why should we consider racial and socioeconomic diversity? Our schools are becoming more racially and socioeconomically segregated. Even when a school is integrated, programming, courses, and activities tend to be racially and socioeconomically segregated. 
  7.  
 
Categories
Boundaries Education policy Montgomery County School equity

Focus on Process to Get School Redistricting Right

 

By Sunil Dasgupta

(Originally posted at Maryland Matters)

The prospect of school redistricting is roiling politics in two major Maryland counties.

Against tough opposition, the Howard County Board of Education just passed a plan to move over 5,000 students to ease overcrowding and diversify its schools. This was a compromise from Superintendent Michael J. Martirano’s original proposal to move more than 7,000, or about 12% of the county public school students.

In Montgomery County, the school board has commissioned a boundary analysis. Superintendent Jack Smith and other county leaders have called this effort a study of options rather than actual recommendations for change.

School redistricting proposals face strident opposition from residents who see the possibility of long school bus rides and social engineering for the sake of diversity, and at the cost of education quality. Opponents also are apprehensive about neighborhood stability and loss of home values if they are reassigned.

School boundaries may be the third rail of local politics, but they are key to creating education policy that is fiscally, morally and pedagogically responsible. The redistricting efforts in Howard and Montgomery counties accept the inescapable need to use resources efficiently and improve equity, but their proposals emphasize outcomes — which students will go where — and thereby help coalesce the opposition while dissipating potential supporters.

Historically, this mismatch in forces has ensured that school systems change boundaries only when carving out attendance areas for new schools. Despite significant shifts in population and demographics, Howard and Montgomery have not made comprehensive changes to their school boundaries for decades.

The last time Montgomery County undertook systemwide redistricting was in the mid-1980s, when it closed more than 60 schools because of low enrollment. The population was 600,000. Today, the county has 1.2 million residents.

There is opposition even to the possibility of redistricting.

David Moon, a Montgomery County state delegate, faces resistance to a bill he introduced that would add a clause to real estate closing documents alerting new homebuyers that they are not guaranteed a particular school assignment.

Matching school capacity and student enrollment is difficult because population shifts and real-estate markets are hard to predict. Despite the best efforts of the MCPS and the Montgomery County Planning Board, the mismatch between student enrollment and school capacity has persisted for more than a decade according to data gathered by parent activists. For school year 2019-20, MCPS is reporting 10,860 students as overcapacity in one half of its schools and 9357 open seats in the other half of its schools. This is a distribution problem.

Yet MCPS Superintendent Smith recently unveiled a $1.82 billion capital improvement plan. It is unclear where the money will come from. State legislative leaders have promised $2 billion for statewide school construction. Montgomery will get a large share of it, but it will also have to issue new bonds. For $100 million in bonds, annual debt servicing will be $8 million. This money could go instead toward hiring more teachers and reducing class size.

Moving students from overcrowded to under-enrolled schools would not only save money but also enable equitable access to education opportunities. Superintendent Martirano’s pitch for redistricting Howard County is rooted in equity. A 2019 MCPS-commissioned report found that black and Latino students were assigned more often to novice teachers and tracked into less rigorous coursework. Many under-enrolled schools are majority-minority and face staffing and programming cuts.

In response to the opposition, school boards should pursue three process steps that will promote a new and fair policy of school redistricting that seeks the greatest general welfare.

First, rely on an independent school boundary commission to review and adjust school boundaries periodically, based on utilization, diversity, transportation and student-assignment stability. A periodic review would allow the school system to adjust to population and housing development shifts, make continual corrections and create a system of incremental change, thereby avoiding the need for a 40-year overhaul.

Second, consider making the independent school boundary commission’s findings and recommendations for redistricting binding. This will help insulate redistricting from the politics faced by elected school board members and inject long-term planning and rationality into the redistricting process.

Third, implement new boundaries with a time-lag to promote predictability. When a child is in kindergarten, her family should know what middle school she will attend. Similarly, sixth-graders should know what high school they will attend. There may be some issues with separated siblings, but in the mix of competing priorities, lagging can provide stability for student cohorts.

Revamping the school redistricting process to foster predictability, incremental changes and corrections by appointing an independent body to insulate the redistricting process from political buffeting could create an enduring fix to an elusive problem.

The writer teaches political science at UMBC at the Universities at Shady Grove and is a Montgomery County parent. He tweets @sunildasgupta4.

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Montgomery County Public School Statistics

School NameUtilization (%)Excess Capacity (#Students)FARMS
Clarksburg ES201%-31313.6%
Luxmanor ES166%-26916.6%
William T. Page157%-22350.6%
Summit Hall ES154%-24581.7%
Mill Creek Towne ES151%-17149.9%
Highland View ES151%-14647.8%
Burnt Mills ES148%-18766.5%
Forest Knolls ES143%-22637.5%
Strawberry Knoll ES142%-19247.0%
Ronald McNair ES132%-20225.6%
Stonegate ES130%-11624.8%
South Lake ES129%-20385.5%
Rachel Carson ES129%-20120.5%
Bannockburn ES127%-971.7%
Oak View ES126%-8879.9%
Burning Tree ES124%-926.0%
Takoma Park MS124%-22324.7%
Burtonsville ES123%-11247.5%
JoAnn Leleck ES122%-15994.6%
Judith A. Resnik ES122%-10956.7%
Greencastle ES122%-13064.7%
Spark M. Matsunaga ES122%-12618.0%
Clarksburg HS122%-43829.5%
Lake Seneca ES121%-8954.8%
Quince Orchard HS121%-36922.4%
Parkland MS120%-19448.2%
Flower Valley ES120%-8328.6%
Northwood HS120%-30050.1%
Farmland ES120%-1427.2%
Thomas W. Pyle MS119%-2491.7%
Bethesda ES119%-1067.5%
Westover ES119%-5025.3%
Walter Johnson HS118%-4277.1%
Capt. James E. Daly ES118%-9571.3%
Gaithersburg ES118%-12983.7%
Ashburton ES117%-13411.6%
Diamond ES117%-11310.3%
Arcola ES115%-9874.0%
Northwest HS115%-33826.0%
A. Mario Loiederman MS115%-12862.3%
Winston Churchill HS115%-2894.0%
Argyle MS114%-12758.3%
Watkins Mill ES114%-9075.2%
Rock Creek Forest ES114%-9326.3%
Rosemont ES114%-7959.6%
Woodlin ES113%-6523.4%
Lucy V. Barnsley ES113%-8527.5%
Somerset ES113%-678.4%
Sargent Shriver ES113%-8481.2%
Olney ES113%-7719.3%
Thurgood Marshall ES113%-7030.7%
John T. Baker MS112%-8919.1%
Fields Road ES112%-5241.4%
Richard Montgomery HS112%-26618.4%
Albert Einstein HS112%-19143.7%
Montgomery Blair HS112%-33836.0%
Cresthaven ES111%-5176.3%
Cloverly ES111%-5022.8%
Strathmore ES110%-4461.1%
Walt Whitman HS110%-1832.2%
Benjamin Banneker MS110%-8150.9%
Meadow Hall ES109%-3453.4%
Oakland Terrace ES109%-4430.8%
Clopper Mill ES109%-4367.5%
Dr. Sally K. Ride ES107%-3549.4%
Germantown ES107%-2135.2%
Great Seneca Creek ES107%-3838.0%
Piney Branch ES106%-3933.5%
Rolling Terrace ES106%-4671.9%
Lakelands Park MS106%-7022.0%
Kemp Mill ES106%-2876.6%
Col. E. Brooke Lee MS106%-4465.6%
Earle B. Wood MS105%-5035.7%
Harmony Hills ES105%-3687.5%
Jackson Road ES105%-3377.5%
Roberto Clemente MS105%-5833.8%
Francis Scott Key MS105%-4470.3%
Silver Spring International MS104%-4642.2%
Cedar Grove ES104%-169.2%
Wilson Wims ES104%-2911.3%
Garrett Park ES103%-2616.3%
Ritchie Park ES103%-1321.9%
Poolesville HS103%-377.0%
Rock View ES103%-1949.5%
James H. Blake HS103%-5233.9%
Highland ES103%-1579.4%
Bells Mill ES103%-1611.0%
Galway ES103%-1960.1%
Fallsmead ES103%-148.3%
Sligo Creek ES102%-1613.4%
Pine Crest ES102%-946.0%
Little Bennett ES102%-1315.6%
John F. Kennedy HS102%-3648.6%
Damascus ES102%-726.6%
Twinbrook ES102%-1066.1%
Briggs Chaney MS101%-1148.8%
Cashell ES101%-423.4%
Flora M. Singer ES100%-341.4%
Dr. Charles R. Drew ES100%-249.9%
Seven Locks ES100%-15.3%
Glenallan ES100%66.0%
North Bethesda MS100%5.9%
Maryvale ES100%142.0%
Eastern MS100%246.3%
Forest Oak MS99%558.5%
Brookhaven ES99%367.5%
Sherwood ES99%519.4%
Whetstone ES99%860.2%
Tilden MS99%1111.6%
Paint Branch HS99%2336.3%
Neelsville MS99%1167.0%
Thomas S. Wootton HS99%265.5%
Gaithersburg HS99%3142.5%
Chevy Chase ES99%717.7%
Cabin John MS98%177.7%
Wheaton HS98%4147.5%
New Hampshire Estates ES98%1192.5%
Takoma Park ES97%1635.9%
Weller Road ES97%2575.6%
Bayard Rustin ES97%25#N/A
Julius West MS97%5026.4%
Goshen ES96%2343.4%
Roscoe Nix ES96%2074.4%
Bel Pre ES96%2771.2%
Wyngate ES96%342.1%
Robert Frost MS95%555.8%
Silver Creek MS95%48#N/A
Rock Creek Valley ES95%2431.4%
Kingsview MS94%5818.1%
Rockville HS94%9333.1%
College Gardens ES94%4414.1%
Georgian Forest ES93%4477.8%
Woodfield ES93%2620.9%
Flower Hill ES93%3564.1%
Seneca Valley HS93%9838.4%
Fairland ES92%5257.1%
Bethesda-Chevy Chase HS92%19811.9%
Herbert Hoover MS92%944.1%
Clearspring ES92%5329.7%
Glen Haven ES92%4661.9%
Montgomery Village MS91%7466.0%
Rosemary Hills ES91%5827.8%
Poolesville ES91%5010.5%
Sherwood HS91%20617.1%
Rosa M. Parks MS90%939.7%
Carderock Springs ES90%402.2%
Fox Chapel ES90%7053.5%
Brooke Grove ES90%5422.5%
Wood Acres ES90%763.5%
Greenwood ES89%638.8%
Hallie Wells MS89%109#N/A
William H. Farquhar MS89%9012.4%
Potomac ES88%491.9%
Damascus HS88%18915.1%
Laytonsville ES88%5518.5%
Col. Zadok Magruder HS88%24133.6%
Montgomery Knolls ES88%6763.9%
Gaithersburg MS87%13248.1%
Rocky Hill MS87%13719.9%
William B. Gibbs, Jr. ES86%9834.8%
East Silver Spring ES86%7955.9%
Lois P. Rockwell ES86%7619.8%
Jones Lane ES86%7427.7%
Bradley Hills ES85%970.8%
White Oak MS85%14761.4%
Kensington-Parkwood ES85%1145.3%
Waters Landing ES85%11752.6%
Beverly Farms ES85%1046.2%
Stone Mill ES85%1069.2%
Brown Station ES84%12468.5%
Martin Luther King Jr. MS84%15047.9%
John Poole MS83%7811.1%
Snowden Farm ES83%130#N/A
Beall ES83%10827.2%
Redland MS83%13037.2%
Lakewood ES83%957.0%
Newport Mill MS83%14849.3%
Ridgeview MS82%17130.0%
Watkins Mill HS82%35050.8%
Belmont ES82%776.4%
Springbrook HS82%38744.1%
Cannon Road ES80%10667.4%
Viers Mill ES78%16166.6%
Stedwick ES78%15060.7%
Wayside ES77%1486.3%
Sligo MS77%21943.9%
Washington Grove ES75%15173.0%
Candlewood ES75%12822.8%
Darnestown ES75%1097.3%
Sequoyah ES74%13254.3%
DuFief ES74%11114.4%
Westland MS73%29710.5%
Cold Spring ES72%1261.2%
North Chevy Chase ES72%9912.5%
S. Christa McAuliffe ES72%21749.1%
Monocacy ES69%6818.8%
Shady Grove MS67%27940.3%
Wheaton Woods ES66%26282.7%
Travilah ES65%1856.2%
Westbrook ES62%2061.8%
Source : MCPS Actuals 2019-2020 (FY21 CIP)