The Montgomery County School Board this week turned aside a recommendation that would have improved racial balance at Montgomery Blair High in Silver Spring, which has the highest minority population of any high school in the county.
The board's action rejecting the recommendation of School Superintendent Edward Andrews will reduce the number of white students who enroll at Blair in future years and will result in a loss of more than 400 students at the high school by 1986. Instead of going to Blair, which is closer to their neighborhoods, these students will attend Einstein High. As a result, Einstein's overall minority enrollment will increase by roughly 10 percent less than originally planned.
Board member Marian L. Greenblatt made the proposal late Monday night at the end of a lengthy meeting on the closing of Northwood High School. Two members, Blair Ewing and vice president Elizabeth Spencer, voted against the move, and president Carol F. Wallace abstained.
Ewing said he opposed Greenblatt's proposal because it would "in fact worsen the situation at Blair." He said the board was "being utterly indifferent about racial balance" at the school.
"The board is drawing a noose around the Blair area by cutting off a piece here and a piece there," Ewing asserted at a hearing last night. "They're reducing it by deliberate action to insignificance and impotence. If the board does this, it will have taken the first step toward creation of Montgomery County's first ghetto."
Last night the board voted to close two more schools, Takoma Park Junior High and Newport Middle School.
Superintendent Andrews' recommendation for Blair High had been to send children from three predominantly white elementary schools in the Northwood area there. In a memo to the board, Andrews said that this move, combined with the transfer of some minority students out of Blair, would reduce the school's minority population from 58.6 percent of the student body to roughly 50 percent.
Under county guidelines, the school administration must investigate ways of improving racial balance at schools where the minority population exceeds 60 percent. Blair is expected to reach that level as early as next year.
Greenblatt argued that students attending Pine Crest, Forest Knolls and Four Corners elementary schools should go to Einstein instead of Blair so that pupils from the entire Northwood service area can stay together through high school.
Although students from those schools have all attended Northwood in the past, the service area now is divided during junior high. Pine Crest students enroll at Eastern Junior High and those from Forest Knolls and Four Corners go to Sligo.
Board members who voted with Greenblatt said yesterday that parents of children attending these elementary schools strongly opposed going to Blair and had requested the alternative of attending Einstein, which has a minority enrollment of 24.3 percent.
But Billie Cirrincione, a member of the Pine Crest Parent-Teacher Association board, said yesterday that her group and the community's civic association had agreed to go to Blair as long as Forest Knolls and Four Corners were assigned there too.
"I'm personally very concerned about the future of Blair," Cirrincione said of the decision to send graduates of the three schools to Einstein. "It will make the racial problem much worse, and will have a ripple effect on the junior high schools."
Cirrincione said "a lot of people in my neighborhood would prefer Einstein to Blair, but nothing went out from our PTA about changing the superintendent's assignment."
Pine Crest principal John DiTomasso said he had assumed that his students would go on to Blair if Northwood closed. "I think most people thought that way," he said. "It's just surprising all the way around."
Several parents and teachers from Blair said they fear that a failure to improve the school's racial balance will drive white students to private schools.
Board member Joseph R. Barse, who met with Greenblatt over the weekend to discuss changing the Blair boundary area, said the board's action was the only "realistic solution that will fly." Barse said the move was necessary because parents from the three elementary schools would withdraw their children from public schools rather than send them to Blair.
Suzanne Peyser, who also voted with Greenblatt, said she favored the move because "it is easier if students who have to move be moved with their friends."
Peyser said the minority percentage at Blair "will improve some but not as much" as under the superintendent's plan. She could not estimate what the percentage of improvement would be.
In action last night, the board voted to close Takoma Park Junior High, which currently feeds into Blair, despite a passionate appeal from members of the Takoma community. The board majority said the school had to close because it was due for costly renovations. The result of the action will be to send Takoma Park students to Eastern Junior High School, which will become the sole feeder for Blair.
But because Blair is due for massive renovations, Takoma Park will be held open to house the high school's 10th and 11th grades while the Blair building is being refurbished. Takoma Park will cease as a junior high in June 1983 or as soon as feasible under the Blair renovation plan.
The board's decision to close Newport Middle School was equally controversial because it is an experimental school that the board opened two years ago and had pledged to keep alive for a longer time.
"I think the board has done an awfully foolish thing in destroying one of the outstanding programs in the country," said Ewing, who was one of two board members to vote to keep Newport open.