Montgomery school board delays charter vote

The Montgomery County Board of Education pushed back a vote Thursday on an application for what could become the county’s first charter school.

Board members debated a last-minute proposal to establish a boundary for students who would be eligible to enroll in the independently operated public school. The so-called “catchment area” would be similar to boundaries used for magnet programs in the county, but many questions arose about how it could work for a charter school.

Newly appointed Superintendent Joshua P. Starr, at his first official school board meeting, urged the board members to slow down.

“You are in, no pun intended, uncharted waters here,” he said. “It seems to me that there is more work that has to be done.”

Starr and several board members expressed confidence in the application itself, which would create a Montessori school in Kensington for as many as 188 students from pre-kindergarten through third grade. The charter would expand on an existing private pre-school that serves predominantly low-income families. The operator, Crossway Community, also provides social services and has an anti-poverty mission.

Board members were concerned that, without some kind of enrollment boundary, the charter school might not be able to serve as many low-income families, because students from wealthier parts of the county would be equally eligible for the program. A final vote is scheduled for July 25.

Charter schools have proliferated rapidly in the District in recent years but have spread more slowly in the Washington suburbs.

Michael Alison Chandler writes about schools and families in the Washington region.
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