Montgomery schools: Proposals for Clarksburg and Silver Spring elementaries

Superintendent Joshua P. Starr issued recommendations Tuesday on boundaries and grade configurations that affect elementary schools in the Silver Spring and Clarksburg areas of Montgomery County.

Starr backed a continued “pairing” of New Hampshire Estates and Oak View elementary schools in Silver Spring. His recommendation would keep grades as they are now, with students in pre-kindergarten through second grade attending New Hampshire Estates and those in third to fifth grades going to Oak View.

A community group had requested the schools be separated, so that each would stand alone as a K-5 elementary school. A discussion group met from March to May, and a final report was issued in June.

Some who urged separating the schools said such a change would allow more walking to school, eliminate a third grade transitions to a new school, and boost parental involvement because schools would be closer to homes, according to school officials.

After his review, Starr concluded such a change would add to socioeconomic disparities at New Hampshire Estates, which has more children in poverty, and ultimately create the need for a 12-classroom addition at Oak View, which school officials said could cost $9.4 million.

Starr’s recommendation noted “no strong evidence of a need to change the current grade organizations” and said he did not believe that “during this difficult fiscal climate the school system should create additional capital needs.”

In a second recommendation, Starr proposed an attendance zone for an elementary school expected to open next fall in Clarksburg. The new school, not yet named, is located at 12420 Blue Sky Drive and will draw students from two schools now overcrowded: Little Bennett and Cedar Grove.

A boundary advisory committee, including representatives from Little Bennett and Cedar Grove, looked at 10 possible options and gave a report to Starr in June.

Starr’s recommendation would relieve overcrowding at Little Bennett and reduce but not eliminate overcrowding at Cedar Grove. Starr said another new school will be needed in the future because of the area’s dramatic enrollment growth.

“I am making these recommendations after considerable community involvement and careful analysis of the educational and operational impact,” Starr said in a statement Tuesday.

The recommendations will go to the Montgomery County Board of Education Oct. 28 as part of the district’s proposed capital improvement program. A work session will be held Nov. 7, with public hearings on Nov. 11 and 14, and board action on Nov. 18. The program requests are then considered by the Montgomery County Council.

Donna St. George writes about education, with an emphasis on Montgomery County schools.
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