A conversation on redistricting and why it has to happen. – Text

Question: Why would anyone even consider changing the school boundaries?

Nothing in life is static. Everything, even towns and cities, evolve. Look at the new development in Gaithersburg, including Rio. Something inconceivable 10 years ago has changed the dynamic of the city.

So with growth comes change. Population shifts, developments are built, and once sleepy communities are now thriving, or, people move on and once thriving areas are now desolate. No matter how much we wish, nothing stays static.

When towns change, and populations shift, schools that were once bustling may be half empty, while other schools see an explosion of population. Boundary analysis are healthy and necessary in an active community to make sure that all schools are being utilized fully.

Question: But they’re talking about doing this to help…those people!

A boundary analysis does provide us with the opportunity to resolve additional issues, one of which is assisting children who are in poverty.

For a number of reasons, defined impoverished areas have emerged in Montgomery County. We, through public education, have an obligation to assist our fellow citizens who are in need.

Question: What do you mean “we have an obligation” to help?

I’m not going to go into a detailed explanation other than “social contract” and “a rising tide lifts all ships.” If that doesn’t convince you, stop reading now. The rest of this will just peeve you off.

Emphatic Statement: But I paid $500,000 to purchase a home so my kids could go to that school!

It makes sense that you want to send your children to the school you selected.  But, things do change.  If the school you selected were to suddenly deteriorate, would you still want to stay? What if the superstar principal who had been running the school left and took a significant number of the experienced teachers along, would you feel differently about keeping your children in that school? 

Response: Yes, I would want their school changed immediately. Oh, I see what you did there.

Right. You’re okay with a change in school if it’s to your benefit. You just don’t want to change if it comes along with a perceived threat. You want the best for your children.  All parents do.  That’s why it is sometimes necessary for MCPS to take a comprehensive look at school boundaries and make some tough choices about where lines are drawn.

Response: It’s not perceived. I just don’t want them on the bus for an hour when we have a perfectly good neighborhood school right here.

Correct. And I agree that neighborhood schools are key and critical for a number of reasons, including community identity, after school activities, and as a gathering place for meetings. A boundary changes would just adjust the lines that define the neighborhood.

Accusation: I thought you said you wanted to add schools to avoid altering school boundaries.

No, I want to add 30 regional schools to prevent the need in the future. Public schools with a regional appeal that would offer parents and students a choice beyond their neighborhood school that would help to diversify student populations and address poverty and learning issues. Schools that don’t require testing to attend, but are open to any student with an interest. For example:

A Museum-themed School: A school that could partner with the Smithsonian (and/or other local museums) and is taught in a Constructivist manner. Throughout the academic year, the school could host “exhibitions” at which students will create displays or performances showcasing their current material and act as docents for the display. Parents and guests will tour the “museum” and learn about the various topics the classes are studying through displays and interactive exhibits created by the students.

An Aerospace and Engineering School: A STEAM-based school that could potentially be associated with NASA and which would focus on engineering, flight, and aerospace.  The students would work on actual issues, problems, and ideas associated with the aerospace industry and other engineering concepts and ideas.

Or…an extended year magnet school that provides more consistency and continuity throughout the year without a summer off.

Question: Then what would happen to neighborhood schools if parents and students had all these awesome programs to choose  from?

Competition is good for any system. Creating dynamic programs as choice would ensure that neighborhood schools rose to the challenge and created equally interesting, and dynamic, programming to attract students as well. Then everyone wins.