School Board Authorizes Three New Boundary Studies

School Board Authorizes Three New Boundary Studies

Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Gaithersburg schools included

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The Montgomery County school board on Tuesday authorized three new boundary studies as it finalized its long-range construction plan for the district.

The school board met Tuesday evening in Rockville for its final discussion about the MCPS capital budget and capital improvements plan. Among the plans, totaling $1.82 billion, are three new boundary studies aimed at decongesting schools.

Most notably, a boundary study is expected to begin this spring in Gaithersburg as MCPS finalizes plans for a new elementary school in the city.

The school is proposed to be on the site of Kelley Park. Residents came out in force to recent school board and Gaithersburg City Council meetings, saying the new school would be a burden to community members who frequent the park.

Plans include removing a softball field and other public space to make room for the school, but replacing them with playgrounds.

MCPS staff members have said an alternate site some community members prefer is not feasible to build on because of its topography. It is a wooded area with varying ground elevations and could not accommodate parking or playgrounds.

The boundary study for the new school on the Kelley Park site will determine which students will attend the school when it opens in September 2022.

All seven elementary schools in the Gaithersburg High School cluster will be included in the study, along with Forest Oak and Gaithersburg middle schools. A report from Superintendent Jack Smith is expected in the fall, with final school board action in March 2021.

MCPS policy dictates that the school board consider student demographics, geography, stability of school assignments over time and school capacity when making boundary decisions.

Somerset and Westbrook elementary schools

In a separate boundary study, the school district will explore ways to relieve crowding at Somerset Elementary School in Chevy Chase.

Somerset’s enrollment continues to grow and exceeds the school’s capacity, but the school site is too constrained to construct an expansion, according to school board documents.

So, MCPS plans to construct a classroom addition at nearby Westbrook Elementary School in Bethesda and conduct a boundary study to move some students from Somerset to Westbrook.

The study will happen this winter and be finalized by the school board in November 2020.
Somerset has an enrollment of about 600 students, approximately 100 more students than the school is built to hold. Westbrook is has capacity for about 185 more students.

Rachel Carson, DuFief elementary schools

An addition to DuFief Elementary School in Gaithersburg was approved by the school board to relieve crowding at nearby Rachel Carson Elementary School. It is expected to be completed in September 2022.

The school board plans to authorize a boundary study for the two schools to begin in the spring and be finalized by March 2021. The goal is to move some students from Rachel Carson, which is about 300 students over capacity, to DuFief, which has capacity for more students.

Included in the study are Lakelands Park and Robert Frost middle schools and Quince Orchard and Thomas S. Wootton high schools to review how elementary schools are paired with middle and high schools.

School boundaries determine which area schools students will attend based on where they live. Elementary and middle schools “feed” into high schools near them, creating school clusters.

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

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