Community members had another chance on Saturday to discuss an ongoing review of school boundaries in Montgomery County.
The meeting at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring was the fourth in a series of six intended for consultants to explain their work and receive feedback from the public. Meetings have occasionally been tense, as members of the public with varying viewpoints debate.
“We’ve had some productive, helpful meetings and we’ve had some that haven’t been,” MCPS Chief Operating Officer Andy Zuckerman told the crowd at the start of the meeting. “Today, we’re going to have one of those productive meetings and I’m looking forward to that.”
After a round of applause, the approximately 475 people broke off into small groups to discuss the analysis.
In January 2019, the school board authorized a $475,000 review of school boundaries, which determine what schools students attend based on where they live.
The study tasked consultants with providing a synopsis of MCPS schools’ capacity, their socioeconomic composition and community members’ thoughts about the project. Data will be compared to similarly sized school districts across the country.
After an approximately two-hour presentation and small group discussions on Saturday, consultants with WXY Architecture + Urban Design, the company hired to do the analysis, answered questions from attendees.
Many urged WXY to do more targeted outreach to the Latino and student communities.
Kushan Dave, with WXY, said there will be smaller community meetings targeting “underrepresented” populations in January and February.
“We understand there can be barriers for some people, so we really want to meet them where they are,” Dave said.
A Churchill High School student said she was disappointed the analysis doesn’t consider how boundary changes would affect students socially and emotionally. She said most of her friends do not want to change schools and are unaware of the study.
Consultants and MCPS officials said they recognize the importance of student input and will continue reaching out to student groups and schools.
One parent challenged consultants’ repeated assertion that its analysis will not result in boundary recommendations or changes. She said she understood that the activity would not itself change boundaries, but asked how long after the final report the community should expect to start seeing small-scale changes.
“What happens when the study is finished and the board and MCPS gather to review it? What is the time frame for next steps,” she asked.
Zuckerman said there is no “imminent plan to take this report and then all of a sudden redraw all the boundaries.”
“That’s not the intent here. The intent is for this to be a resource document for the board to use as part of its regular, routine work,” Zuckerman said, adding that boundary studies are routine when a school gets an addition or a new school is built. “It’s ongoing. There’s no imminent plan to do anything beyond that.”
The next boundary analysis meeting is at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Northwest High School in Germantown.