Montgomery County school officials are weighing a range of alternative schools, including a bilingual school and a school that would stress basics and discipline, as one possible solution to problems of racial imbalance and underenrollment in the eastern part of the county.
In one group of schools, called the Takoma Park Cluster, more than 2,000 parents of children at seven different schools were polled on which of eight possible alternative school options they would select for their children.
In another seven school clusters in the vicinity of New Hampshire Avenue, officials are considering offering an alternative school that would emphasize basics and a "continuous progress" school in which each child would progress at his own rate.
Both areas face possible school closings next year because of underenrollment, plus the possibility of some form of busing for desegregation purposes.
The idea behind the alternative school plan, said assistant school superintendent George Thomas "is to get racial balance in the schools through voluntary choices by the parents."
"We're trying to give people a choice. We're hoping that the minorities will sort of spread themselves around," said Bob Lazun, a Takoma Park parent and a member of a parents committee in the Takoma Park cluster.
Detailed results of the polling of parents were not available, but officials said the strongest expression of support came for the basics alternative school. Parents in the New Hampshire Avenue cluster also tended to favor the idea of a basics alternative, school officials said.
As planned, such a school would be fairly structured with emphasis on reading and math skill development with a strick code of discipline.
Officials also said the continuous progress school permitting children to proceed at their own pace also received strong parental support.
Among the other alternatives under consideration for the Takoma Park cluster are a school emphasizing math and science; a language immersion school in which virtually all instruction is in French or Spanish; a parent participation school in which parents plan, work in classrooms and have a role in teacher selection; an arts school in which art, music, drama and dance are used to promote reading and writing interests; and a programmed instruction school in which children get an immediate response to all answers in reading, language arts or math.
Two of the schools in the cluster, Takoma Park and Rolling Terrace are just over 50 per cent minority making them likely candidates for some sort of desegregation effort next year. Other schools in the cluster are Four Corners, Highland View, Oak View, East Silver Spring and Piney Branch Middle.
In the New Hampshire Avenue cluster, the New Hampshire Estates School is 80 per cent minority. Current thinking in the New Hampshire cluster is to recommend closing of two schools and the establishment of two alternatives, officials said. Other schools in that cluster are Broad Acres, Brookview, Cresthaven, Hillendale, Burnt Mills, and Jackson Road.
In all, 27 schools in Montgomery County have been earmarked as possible candidates for closing or desegregation activity. A limited desegregation plan involving busing programs at 13 of the schools began last fall.