Credit: Thomas Park

To conserve resources, Montgomery County Public Schools informed parents last week that advanced math classes at some elementary schools would only be offered virtually next school year—a decision met with high frustration from parents. The change comes after the school district recently finalized its new $3.16 billion operating budget and officials expressed concern about having to make budget cuts to fund all the school district’s high-priority items.

Parents of Highland View Elementary fourth and fifth graders identified as eligible for advanced math classes next school year received notice from Principal Hanna Yim on June 5 informing them that the courses would only be offered virtually due to the small 10-student class size and limited resources.

MCPS spokesperson Aisha Mbowe confirmed the advanced classes at Highland View would be offered virtually but did not specify how many other elementary schools would be modifying their advanced class format. The accelerated math classes are offered to select fourth and fifth grade students within MCPS who “demonstrate a need for course advancement,” according to Mbowe.

Highland View Elementary parent Lindsay Barclay wrote to MoCo360 to express her frustration with the district’s decision.

“We are deeply disappointed that MCPS is choosing to use virtual instruction to balance the budget and force our children to choose between receiving enrichment and in-person instruction,” she wrote. “All children at MCPS should be able to receive in-person instruction at their schools.”

Last year, Barclay said her child had a dedicated in-person teacher for an advanced class of similarly small size, but said their principal explained there were not enough funds to provide in-person instruction this year.


In late May, MCPS finalized its operating budget after a long, tense process that garnered much public discourse and even civil disruption of a County Council meeting. The newly approved budget is $74.3 million less than the Board of Education’s initial request, and school officials have said some budget items will have to be reduced or eliminated as a result—including virtual academy resources.

Mbowe mentioned that some summer school programs might switch from in-person to virtual as well, but she did not elaborate on which programs’ formats could be modified.

“When we returned to schools after the pandemic and the Virtual Academy was created, we decided to use this as an option to support our needs,” Mbowe wrote. “We work with schools to provide a variety of instructional models. Virtual instruction is one model option.”


She also could not provide data quantifying how many students participate in these advanced classes on average, or how much the school district spent on virtual academy resources pre- and post-pandemic.

Barclay said she and other parents are concerned about the impact of virtual learning on students’ academic progress and overall well-being, a documented issue both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“MCPS is using virtual instruction to balance the budget and short-changing our students by not offering an in-person option for enriched classes,” she said.