School year opens in Montgomery with new initiatives and expected record enrollment

Thousands of students returned to classes in Montgomery County Monday, as the school year opened with a new technology initiative, a new student code of conduct and a record-high projected enrollment.

Maryland’s largest school system - with more than 154,000 students expected this year — also added a new school, its 202nd: Wilson Wims Elementary, on Blue Sky Drive, in Clarksburg.

With 650 students expected to attend classes, Wims buzzed with visitors Monday, a hub of first-day fanfare for Maryland’s largest school system. Elected officials gathered with educators and parent leaders in ceremonies to celebrate the school’s opening and speak broadly of the district’s plans and goals.

Superintendent Joshua P. Starr underscored recent student success on Advanced Placement exams and ACT college entrance tests, and noted that Montgomery’s class of 2014 had been offered many millions of dollars in college scholarships.

Starr pointed to the technology initiative, which will bring 40,000 new laptops and tablets into Montgomery schools, and showed off a recyclable cardboard lunch tray, to make school cafeterias more environmentally friendly. He talked about rigor in the curriculum, new high school programs and increasing community engagement.

Still, he said challenges remain, including the achievement gap that is linked to lower test scores for African American and Hispanic students.

“We know we also have a significant gap that’s been longstanding and we are working incredibly hard to ensure we address it,” he said.

School Board President Phil Kauffman(At Large) also cited the achievement gap as a focus of district efforts Monday, noting more prekindergarten classes this year and more math and English teachers in high-needs high schools, among other efforts.

Montgomery officials know “we cannot continue to do things the way we have always done them,” he said.

“We know some students are being served very well in our schools, while other students are not being served as well,” Kauffman said.

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