School diversity a main goal of Montgomery County school boundary study

Montgomery County launched a countywide school boundary analysis on Monday, intending to make schools in Maryland’s largest school system more diverse.

About two dozen students testified before the Montgomery County Board of Education in a packed Rockville auditorium Monday on what they deemed de facto segregation.

All concurred the board needs to address issues with diversity in county schools.

All students told the board that boundaries for Montgomery County Public Schools should be based less on community and neighborhood schools, and more on creating diverse student populations.

“For too long, MCPS has prioritized segregationist and red line-era boundaries over diverse classrooms and the property values of some over the values of our community,” said Uma Fox, a student at Richard Montgomery High School. “The majority of our students face segregated schools where education is both separate and unequal.”

Nick Asante, who also attends Richard Montgomery High School, said the aim of the study “is not to punish those who are privileged but to uplift those who are less fortunate.”

The boundary analysis will focus on equity, capacity and access, and will be an analysis of how Montgomery County uses boundaries. It comes as enrollment at MCPS increased by more than 30,000 over 20 years, making the school system one of the nation’s most diverse.

This year, MCPS gained between 2,500 and 2,600 students. If that pattern continues, Superintendent Jack Smith said on Monday that the school enrollment figures will top 170,000 students within two years.

Some parents who addressed the school board urged caution in any redrawing of school boundaries.

“If you value maintaining a sense of community, any significant redistricting would dramatically and negatively impact the sense of community across the entire county,” said Rami Kandel, a parent of four childen, three of whom currently attend county schools. “A significant redistricting where families don’t live near schools or the families of other students would tear apart the fabric and displace any remaining sense of community across the county.”

The Montgomery County Council of PTAs not only endorses the current study, it recommends regular checks of school boundaries to ensure that student bodies are diverse.

“Why don’t we consider a routine and proactive system of regular boundary analysis so that we are proactively working to prevent lopsided demographics in our schools,” said Lynn Harris, president of the Montgomery County Council of PTAs, which advocates for issues that concern PTAs across the county.

Monday’s hearing was the first in a series of public hearings on the study.

Upcoming meetings on the boundary study will take place at 7 p.m. Dec. 4 at Gaithersburg High School, 7 p.m. Dec. 11 at Julius West Middle School and 10 a.m. Dec. 14 at White Oak Middle School. More information can be found on the school board’s website.

WXY Consulting, the group conducting the boundary analysis, is expected to submit its final report in June 2020.

WTOP’s Dick Uliano reported from Rockville.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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