2020 | Schools

Boundary analysis final report delayed until spring due to COVID-19

Consultants considering more targeted meetings for ‘hard to reach’ communities

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boundary map

A map of current MCPS boundaries.

via MCPS

Citing challenges caused by COVID-19, consultants leading a countywide review of public school boundaries said Thursday that the release of the project’s final report will again be delayed — this time until the spring.

With the most recent delay, the final report is nearly one year behind schedule, largely due to the effects of the pandemic. Consultants with WXY Studio are deep into the second phase of the project, which has included developing an interactive online tool that allows people to visualize the data they have compiled.

During Thursday’s meeting, consultants said the final report will include four “simulations” that will use its data to prioritize:

• Improving capacity within school clusters
• Improving capacity concerns between neighboring schools
• Improving capacity concerns while increasing diversity
• Improving capacity concerns while reducing distances students walk to school.

The districtwide boundary analysis began in January 2019. Its goal is to analyze how school boundaries “support or impede” students’ access to schools that are not crowded, are within walking distance of their homes and have diverse student bodies, district officials have said.

School board members and MCPS employees have been adamant that the analysis will not result in “surprise” boundary changes. Consultants can’t tell the board what boundaries to change.

Since consultants unveiled the interactive online tool in October, 1,200 people have filled out a feedback survey about it.

Of the people who have filled out the survey:

• 47% were white, 11% were Asian and 22% declined to say
• 50% were from the Bethesda area and 15% were from the Rockville area.

School board Vice President Karla Silvestre and member Lynne Harris said they were concerned the data are not representative of the district’s student enrollment.

Consultants said they are open to adding more meetings to reach out to Black and Hispanic communities, and people who don’t speak English. But, they said, many families are not as interested as they were during the first phase because the current work is more “technical” and they have other concerns to focus on related to COVID-19.

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