MCPS Superintendent Addresses Concerns About Boundary Changes

MCPS Superintendent: ‘How Could You Not Expect the Possibility’ of Boundary Changes

Smith says school district looks for ‘best learning environments’ as enrollment grows

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MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith speaks during a press conference Monday morning in Rockville.

Caitlynn Peetz

As an analysis of school boundaries in Montgomery County continues, the district’s superintendent on Monday addressed community concerns that boundary changes could hurt property values.

In meetings and in written comments to the school district, some community members have said they oppose the countywide boundary analysis and any changes that might occur as a result because it could decrease the value of their homes.

Some commenters have said it would be unfair because they have worked hard to buy homes in affluent neighborhoods and that bringing lower-performing students into the neighborhood school would make it less appealing.

On Monday, hours before the first public hearing on the study, Smith said it’s unrealistic to assume school boundaries will never change.

“Let’s just think about it for a minute: If I bought a house 20 years ago in Montgomery County, in 20 years, MCPS has gained more than 30,000 kids. How could you not expect the possibility of going to a different school?”

Smith pointed to the 1970s, when the school district’s enrollment was dropping, leaving empty classrooms throughout the county. During that time, several county schools closed. Now, MCPS is struggling with ballooning enrollment that has stretched many schools beyond capacity.

“We have to study history and know that we’re either experiencing growth or loss. … All of those things shift all the time. It’s the way our society works and I don’t know why we would expect something different for schools.”

Smith reiterated, though, that the study of school boundaries will not directly result in any boundary changes.

The consultants, working on a $475,000 contract, will provide data and resources to the school board in June, but will not recommend any specific boundary changes. The school board will then use the information “as it is relevant” to help shape future boundary decisions, Smith said.

The consultant’s study focuses on analyzing schools’ student demographics, travel patterns and school capacity problems.

The study also focuses on “sustainability in boundaries,” meaning boundaries will not be shifted multiple times in a short timeframe, Smith said.

“We have to think about the best, most efficient and effective way to provide the best learning environments for all students,” Smith said. “And the best learning environment isn’t just the facility. Facilities matter but all other issues … all the operations that schools run do, too. There is not simple answer, but this will give us information about all of our schools in one place.”

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

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