After receiving more than 500 comments about proposed changes to the Montgomery County Public Schools’ student transfer policy, the school board will delay making changes for six months.

In June 2018, the school board began work to potentially overhaul the policy, which determines the circumstances when MCPS students can attend schools outside their assigned boundaries.

Proposed changes — including making it easier for students with mental health problems and staff members’ students to transfer schools — were released for public feedback in November 2019 after multiple lengthy school board debates.

The school board received 535 comments from parents, students, staff and community members, with a range of suggestions and questions. The significant public interest has prompted the school board to delay final action on the changes from Thursday to “no later than June 11, 2020,” according to school board documents.

The board’s Policy Management Committee will continue working to refine the policy. It could be released again for more public feedback.

The current policy outlines specific circumstances for transfers. For a transfer to be approved, the applicant must prove a unique hardship, defined as “problems that are not common to large numbers of families.”

The proposed changes aim to clarify and provide examples of a unique hardship.

Among the examples are circumstances in which parents’ work hours extend “significantly beyond the typical hours” provided by child care programs and financial constraints that prevent a family from affording child care.

The proposed new version says students’ mental, physical and emotional health could be considered for atransfers. The school district would require documentation from a physician or counselor.

The updated policy would let the district grant transfer requests for MCPS staff members who want their children to attend schools where they work. It only would apply to high-poverty schools or schools with extended academic years.

Staff members would have to provide a child care plan for children for “all times during the staff’s duty day.”

About 205 of the comments focus on how the policy is implemented after a boundary change. Most say students should be allowed to transfer after a boundary change redistricts them to a new school or cluster to attend the same schools as their siblings, according to school board documents.

On Thursday afternoon, the school board will review comments it received.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com