The Montgomery County school board is grappling with the fate of 13 of its schools, debating whether they should be closed, composed of different grades or have new boundaries. These arrangements would be temporary until an appeal of the state Board of Education's decision is issued.
On June 30, the Maryland Board of Education ruled that the Montgomery school board's decisions to close Rosemary Hills Elementary School and alter the attendance patterns of Eastern Intermediate and Montgomery Blair High schools were "arbitrary and unreasonable" on a number of counts. The Montgomery board has appealed this decision to the county Circuit Court. No court date has been set.
Now, with only 29 working days left before the start of the new school year, the local board and administrators are struggling to consider a variety of complicated alternatives to their initial plans. These new decisions will affect hundreds of students and spark further protests from the communities most likely to be affected.
"I'm numb from the whole process," said Maxine Pagliano, president of the Parent-Teachers Association for Rollingwood Elementary. Rollingwood's possible closure was averted last fall by the board's decision to close Rosemary Hills instead. Now, under separate alternatives proposed by Superintendent Edward Andrews and school board member Joseph Barse, Rollingwood may yet be closed.
"To be told in a week's time that we might go from opening this September to being closed is a bit much to take," said Pagliano.
The school board met late Tuesday to discuss interim proposals that might result in the closure of Rollingwood and/or North Chevy Chase Elementary. But boundary changes are being considered for Blair and Eastern as well as Rosemary Hills, Chevy Chase, Bethesda, Somerset, Woodlin, Pine Crest and Forest Knolls elementary schools, and Sligo Junior High and Albert Einstein High schools. Four Corners and Lynnbrook elementary schools already have been closed.
Under Andrews' plans, Rollingwood would close and a pairing of Rosemary Hills and Chevy Chase elementaries would continue. In that pairing, students attend Rosemary Hills from kindergarten through second grade and Chevy Chase for grades three through six.
Andrews also has proposed sending students from three predominantly white elementary schools--Forest Knolls, Pine Crest and the former Four Corners school--to Eastern Intermediate and Blair High School. Currently, students from these schools are assigned to Sligo Junior High and Einstein High. The state board had ruled that the local board's actions placed too many minority students at Eastern while not alleviating the large numbers of minorities already at Blair.
"These recommendations are made in the belief that they can be implemented by Sept. 1 with the least change in plans already made," said Andrews.
Barse proposed two alternatives involving a number of student reassignments. The first would involve closing North Chevy Chase Elementary and transferring its students to Rosemary Hills. His second plan would close both North Chevy Chase and Rollingwood and assign the Rollingwood children to Chevy Chase Elementary.
School system administrators are analyzing the plans before next week's public hearing on Tuesday and final board decision on Wednesday.
Sarah Maxie, president of the North Chevy Chase PTA, took issue with the quick decisions the board must make. "The rushed procedure used here is clearly unfair to the parents, community and most of all, the children."