Parents and children, many from Clarksburg, Maryland, turned out in strong numbers to protest changes to school district boundaries Tuesday night outside the Montgomery County Board of Education.
Inside board headquarters, members voted 7-1 to approve Superintendent Jack Smith’s recommendation for school district boundary changes for Clarksburg, Northwest and Seneca Valley High Schools.
“Adopting a boundary change is the hardest vote that board members make because people are very passionate about where they choose to live, where they want their children to attend,” said District 3’s Patricia O’Neill, Vice President of the Board of Education
Outside, Luka Van Herksen, of Clarksburg, a 12-year-old middle school student, said the boundary change will force him to attend Seneca Valley High School, much farther from his home than Clarksburg High School, which he would have attended if his neighborhood boundary had not been changed.
“I don’t think it’s fair … the problem is that it is very far away, which means longer bus rides, every single day, traffic and driving on the highway on the bus, which isn’t safe,” Van Herksen said.
School boundary changes in Montgomery County are undergirded by policy that ensures that geography does not trump other factors in setting school districts, including diversifying student populations.
“I have two siblings, and they’re going to two different schools; and all three of us, we’re going to be going to three different schools in three different ZIP codes and that’s a lot,” Van Herksen said.
Another protester deeply disappointed with the board’s decision was Bill Matarazzo, of Clarksburg, a parent of two school children who will be bused longer distances under the boundary change.
“They’re putting politics before kids. We need our kids at home; we need to nurture them; we need to help them with their homework … We want MCPS to hear all of our voices, people from every cluster, and make sure that all of our opinions are equitable in their decisions,” Matarazzo said.
Shortly before taking the vote that would change the school district boundary, O’Neill was sharply critical of some of the people protesting the boundary change.
“Over the last couple of days, I’ve been deeply troubled by the tone of emails that have come to the board … It is absolutely uncalled for, unbelievable; and in 20 years on the board, I have not seen this low level of behavior, and it does not speak well for our community,” O’Neill said.