A Montgomery County Schools study recommending the shift of junior high schools to middle schools touched off charges of "political pressure" at a spirited meeting of county citizens last week.
Citizens from the communities served by Einstein and Woodward High Schools charged that Supt. Charles M. Bernardo and the school board either misled residents about the future of their local schools or reacted to political pressure in delaying decisions on middle schools.
Residents of the Woodward area (Rockville) charged that a task force study issued in 1976 forecast the closing of Woodward. Later that year, said Morris Freitel of the Luxanor Civic Association, Bernardo proposed that the school get a new auditorium. But after six more months, Freitel said, Bernardo put Woodward on a list of schools he was considering closing.
Meanwhile, residents of the Einstein area (Kensington) charged that "political pressure" by Woodward area residents has kept the board from beginning middle school programs, so as a result, they say, Woodward has a good chance of remaining open while Einstein does not.
Bernardo denied the allegations of both groups. He said "There was no promise broken" in the on-gain, off-again fate of Woodward, and he said plans are still being considered to convert Kensington's Newport Junior High School to a middle school. That would "force feed" students into Einstein, which sits right next door, and would assure that Einstein remains open.
The question of shifting the county's junior high schools (now comprised of the 7th, 8th and 9th grades) to middle schools (7th and 8th grades only) has been under consideration since early 1976. However, the school board has never acted on the recommendations in favor of middle schools made by a task force.
The middle school notion is part of the county's still-evolving policy on secondary school reorganization. It is part of a larger problem the board faces in setting guidelines on how to close schools.
Last week's meeting, attended by more than 500 persons, was held at the school board offices in Rockville.