Montgomery Co. out with long-awaited school boundaries report

A long-awaited report that makes some broad recommendations about changing school boundaries, but gets into few specifics, has been unveiled in Montgomery County, Maryland.

The 172-page report said proposed changes, which would impact about 10% of Montgomery County Public Schools students, would help the county reach the goals set out by school system leaders: more economic and racial diversity, and bringing balance between schools that are overcrowded and those that are under capacity.

The report by WXY Consulting and Public Engagement Associates suggests the county could do all that without increasing the time and distance traveled by students in any significant way.

More than half the schools in the ever-growing county are over capacity right now, and nearly half the students enrolled in their “neighborhood” schools don’t attend the school that’s closest to them.

One of the recommendations the report makes is to get rid of the “cluster boundaries” that funnel the same group of elementary schools to the same group of middle schools, and then the same high schools.

The report said the cluster model doesn’t ensure all students are going to the school that’s closest to where they live.

The report argues that the boundaries that exist now create “more demographic disparities than boundaries based on distance alone.”

It said if Montgomery County were to simply redraw boundaries based on distance, schools in general would see a small but noticeable change in socioeconomic and racial diversity.

But the report also said ever greater diversity could be achieved through more focused tweaks to the districts, but even then, the increased distance put between students and their new schools would average out to less than a mile from the elementary through high school grades.

The report never gets into exactly which boundaries should be changed and to what effect. Instead it’s meant to be used as a starting point for school leaders, who are expected to take up the issue again later this fall.

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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