2019 | Schools

Cost of MCPS School Boundary Analysis Capped at $475,000

Board expected to award contract Thursday

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A map of existing school boundaries.

Map via MCPS

A countywide review of school-attendance boundaries is expected to cost up to $475,000, according to school board documents.

On Thursday, the Montgomery County Board of Education is scheduled to award a contract for the review to New York-based WXY Architecture + urban design, with a cost “not to exceed” $475,000 for fiscal year 2020, a draft resolution says.

“This firm demonstrated a connection to the intent of the project scope; brings the potential for innovative approaches to this assessment and review; and had support from the community stakeholders engaged in our review process,” the document says.

The contract will be for one year with up to three one-year renewal options, according to school board documents.

School system officials said a copy of the firm’s proposal could not be released Tuesday because it could contain “proprietary information” that would need to be redacted before public review.

In January, the Board of Education passed a resolution to hire a consultant to evaluate school boundaries, which determine what area schools students will attend based on where they live. Elementary and middle schools “feed” high schools near them, creating school clusters.

The boundary analysis is believed to be the school system’s first comprehensive look at school boundaries in at least 20 years.

Many have lobbied for more diverse schools to be a focus of the analysis, while some parents have said they fear long bus rides for the children or decreased home values if boundaries shift.

The school district received two proposals for the project, according to school system officials. In July, the school board postponed the original date it was expected to award the contract. The board planned to further review the proposals and address “lingering questions” both to and from bidders.

Public outreach efforts are expected in the winter, an interim report will be presented to the school board by Feb. 15, 2020, and a final report is to be presented by June 1, 2020, according to the request for proposals document issued by MCPS.

The consultant must benchmark Montgomery with other school systems of similar size and analyze the impact of current boundaries and potential boundary changes on student body demographics, facility use, transportation, the use of schools to offer nonprofit or after-school programs, articulation patterns and the pros and cons of cyclic boundary reviews.

WXY Architecture specializes in “urban design, planning and architectural solutions in challenging contexts,” according to its website.

The firm conducted a review of Boston Public Schools school assignment practices in 2013, the website says.

The Boston school system has long struggled with “a legacy of” racial segregation, which was a key focus of WXY’s review. The firm helped create a new school assignment policy by evaluating school capacity, English as a Second Language programs, projected demographic mix, access to quality schools and transportation costs.

Preparation began by ensuring homes of all school children were “geocoded,” or placed on a map with precise geographical coordinates.

WXY evaluated several potential policies based on social equity, school capacity and anticipated transportation costs, according to the website, and it provided enrollment projections based on “fine-grained, location-based” projections.

A spokesperson for Boston Public Schools could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.

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