The Montgomery County Board of Education met Tuesday. Credit: Christine Zhu

The Montgomery County Board of Education voted 7-1 Tuesday against a proposal to create what would have been the county’s only charter school. Lynne Harris was the only board member to vote in support of the charter school.

With a proposed location in Gaithersburg, the school would have focused on providing business and finance-related education to middle and high school students, according to Mentoring by Example College & Career Academy (M.E.C.C.A.), the group proposing the school. 

It’s the second consecutive year that the school board has considered the idea of a charter school proposed by M.E.C.C.A. Last year, the school board rejected a similar proposal from M.E.C.C.A. due to concerns about transportation, funding and enrollment.

In April, M.E.C.C.A. resubmitted its application, which outlines a plan to initially open the school with about 250 students in sixth and seventh grades in the 2024-25 school year before expanding by one grade level each year through 12th grade. The school board reviewed this proposal last month. Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Monifa McKnight had recommended the board approve the proposal.

On Tuesday board members expressed concerns similar to those that they’d expressed about M.E.C.C.A.’s first proposal. 

Board member Rebecca Smondrowski said she had many concerns about the transportation aspect. While M.E.C.C.A. did not go into specifics at Tuesday’s meeting, the group previously shared plans for school bus transportation to be provided to students.

“Gaithersburg, while it may be a very dense area and the schools may be overcrowded to some extent, it is an extremely high walking community,” Smondrowski said. “That’s been a big issue for us even in terms of opening new schools.”

Previously, the proposed location of the school was in the Takoma Park area. Regarding the new location, board members voiced concerns over whether enrollment projections would hold up due to different demands in different areas of the county.

“It’s a big change to go from east county to Gaithersburg, and that’s a little concerning to me,” Board President Brenda Wolff said.

Although M.E.C.C.A. received a $900,000 start-up grant from the Maryland State Department of Education, board members still worried that the group might not secure the funding needed to acquire and renovate a building. 

Additionally, the board questioned whether there was a need for a business-focused school since MCPS already offers a few business and finance-specific programs at the high school level. 

Representatives from M.E.C.C.A. said the school would provide opportunities for students to learn about business and the economy before reaching high school, unlike the other programs in the county. 

“Our microeconomy is designed to support students as they explore business and economics,” said Tracy Cooper, who testified on behalf of M.E.C.C.A. “Our goal is to blend theory and practice to create unique opportunities and innovation for students. 

McKnight said M.E.C.C.A. can appeal the school board’s decision to the Maryland State Department of Education.

Christine Zhu of Gaithersburg, a rising junior at the University of Maryland who is studying journalism and Spanish, is the Bethesda Beat summer intern.