2021 | Schools

School Notes: MCPS spending $276K to enhance data tool connected to boundary analysis

Plus: School board changes public comment policy

School board spending $276,000 to enhance data tool connected to boundary analysis

The Montgomery County Board of Education on Tuesday authorized the school district to spend $276,800 to “expand and enhance” an interactive tool created as part of a contentious countywide boundary analysis.

The contract was awarded to WXY Architecture + Urban Design, the New York City-based architecture firm that is conducting the boundary analysis. WXY created the “interactive boundary explorer” as part of the analysis.

But in an email this week, and during a school board meeting this week, MCPS spokespeople said the new expenditure is separate from the boundary review.

It is intended to “build out” the tool to be a comprehensive online data dashboard about each of its 208 schools.

Now, the tool includes information about schools’ enrollments, capacity, boundaries and student body demographics.

According to a spokeswoman, when the new project is completed, it will include:

• Schools at a glance
• School safety at a glance
• Key facility indicators
• Special education at a glance
• School energy use
• School recycling information
• Class-size information

Now, that information is available in separate documents on the MCPS website. It is only available in PDFs.

The new dashboard will have features allowing community members to compare schools’ information, and download the information into a spreadsheet.

School board changes public comment policy

The Montgomery County Board of Education this week made significant revisions to its policy about public comments during its meetings.

The revisions include reducing the time people have to testify, limiting the frequency by which the same people can testify and setting aside time during each meeting for unions.

Previously, the first 15 people to sign up to testify were given speaking spots.

Board President Brenda Wolff said the changes are necessary because there has been increased demand for testimony spots since the pandemic began.

The new policy reduces people’s speaking time from 3 minutes to 2 minutes.

Ten people who sign up to speak about items on that meeting’s agenda will be approved, unless they have testified within the past 30 days. In that case, their request for a speaking spot may be denied.

Five people will be allowed to speak about items not on that meeting’s agenda.

The board “reserves the right to limit the number of speakers and/or similar perspectives on a particular” topic, the resolution to change the policy said.

Five additional spots will be reserved during each meeting for representatives of unions and other organizations that want to speak about an agenda item.

The three employee unions — the Montgomery County Education Association, Service Employees International Union Local 500, and the Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals — will have a “standing testimony slot” at each meeting. If a union declines to speak, the spot will be filled on a “first come, first serve basis.”