Setting Boundaries

MCPS Struggling with School Boundary Issue

Hurelayn Abdu, Editor-in-Chief

Montgomery County Public Schools is often referred to as “diverse” and “inclusive,” but this has all been called into question recently. Current Student Member of the Board Ananya Tadikonda proposed that the school board commission an independent contractor to examine the boundaries and zoning of all 207 MCPS schools.

However, when the issue of boundaries comes up, residents often bristle at the idea of change as they instantly see issues on the horizon related to their community. One aspect of Tadikonda’s proposal that has drawn significant criticism is that the boundary study look for ways to increase diversity among schools.

Tadikonda is not the first to propose a study of the boundaries with an emphasis on diversity, however. In 2018, previous Student Member of the Board Matthew Post proposed that the school board change the current practices of zoning to put an emphasis on increasing diversity, instead of equally weighing it along with geography, stability of school assignments over time, and facility utilization, which is what is currently happening under the board’s Educational Planning Policy.

While Post’s idea was struck down by the other board members, the fight for more diversity in Montgomery County did not stop as students, including the group Moco 4 Change, continued to lobby the board to implement policies that would work to increase diversity in county schools. This included an email campaign to board members, student’s showing up to board hearings with signs that display phrases like “seperate is inheritantly unequal”, “Montgomery County is Segreagated” and “Stop De Facto Segreagtion” and students testifying about their own experiences with diversity or the lack of diversity in their schools.

Following the hearings the Board of Education then decided to hold forums for both students and parents to express their views on the issue. The first forum was held on April 4th at Quince Orchard High School along with forums at John F. Kennedy High School, Earl B. Wood Middle School and Walter Johnson High School. The hearings proved to be quite contentious as there was an obvious divide between some parents who felt that changing the school boundaries would lead to a decrease in the property values of their homes along with a decrease in the quality of education of upper county schools such as Walter Johnson, Whitman, Wooton and Bethesda- Chevy Chase, and other parents who expressed a desire to increase diversity, reduce class sizes in overcrowded schools and create a more equiatble allocation of resources for schools. Included in both groups were students who provided their opinions on the boundary issue – with almost all being in support of efforts to increase diversity- and shared personal anecdotes from their experiences at various schools. Included in this was former candidate for SMOB Zoe Tishae, a junior at Clarksburg High School, who said “The idea of understanding there are people who don’t look like you in the world and being able to interact with them without being awkward about it and just understanding they are equal to you is an integral skill that needs to be ingrained into us by the public education system.”

The contentiousness of the boundary study meetings and postings exemplified some of the underlying issues that still exist in Montgomery County. These issues have come to the forefront as of late, including incidents of students wearing blackface, racist graffiti found at at least one school and reports of students using racial slurs at schools.