Against the advice of the school superintendent, the Montgomery County Board of Education voted last night to defer action on the attendance boundaries of Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring--the focus of intense controversy--until after the board elections this fall.
Superintendent Edward Andrews, with the backing of several Blair High School community leaders, had backed a proposal that would add students from three predominantly white elementary schools to Blair's attendance area, bolster its academic program and begin plans to renovate a large classroom building.
But the board voted 6 to 1, with only Blair Ewing voting against, to defer the Blair High decision, directing Andrews instead to develop long-range plans for Blair, Albert Einstein and Northwood High schools by this December.
The board voted last fall to change Blair's attendance boundaries, a move criticized by the Blair community and moderates on the board as arbitrary. Some critics argued that it was racially motivated and designed to force the school's closing eventually, a charge denied by the board majority.
The board's decision was overturned in late June by the Maryland State Board of Education in part because it did nothing to alleviate Blair's high minority enrollment. The local board is appealing the state board's action in court, but further action is necessary to determine the fate of the high school.
Last night E. Stephen Derby, the local board's attorney specializing in desegregation matters, said he supports Andrews' plans.
"It was preferable to deal with the broader situation," he said, but added that he thought the board's decision to defer making plans would comply with the state board's ruling.
Board member Joseph Barse called the deferral "a very constructive idea. . . There is a need to go back to the drawing board and take a long-term look at each of these schools . . . . .This is a very constructive idea."
Spokesmen for the Blair High community disagreed. "It's obvious that nothing has been done to define a Blair attendance area. We are still stuck in that limbo," said Tom Broadwater, copresident of the Montgomery Blair Parent Teacher-Student Association.
When the state board reversed the county board's decision on Blair, it also reversed a local board decision that greatly increased the number of minority students attending Eastern Intermediate School.
Although the local board is also contesting that ruling in court, it voted last night to add students from the Forest Knolls, Pine Crest and old Four Corners elementary schools' areas to Eastern's attendance pattern this fall to reduce that school's minority ratio.
Rollingwood and Chevy Chase are in the same cluster of elementary schools as Rosemary Hills, a school the board voted last November to close. The board's decision last November to close Rosemary Hills, which has long been a symbol of integration efforts in the county, was reversed by the state board, which said that minority students would suffer a disproportionate burden.
The vote to close the two schools came despite the strident objections of community leaders.
Barse, who offered the resolutions to close Rollingwood and North Chevy Chase, argued that their closure will address the underutilization of schools in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster, comply with the state board's decision and improve integration.
But the board member Ewing, the lone dissenter on the vote, said that the plan "is full of defects" and has not been subjected to public scrutiny and testimony and "will be subject to the same sort of challenge as the board just lost."