Montgomery County school superintendent Edward A. Andrews is planning to recommend changing attendance boundaries and adding special science classes to attract more white students to Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring.
Two members of a school system committee that met with Andrews in the past week said the recommendations include assigning pupils from three predominantly white schools outside the beltway to Blair, which has the highest minority enrollment of any of the county's 22 high schools. In addition, they said, Andrews will recommend placing a science and mathematics magnet program at Blair.
It is the second time since the defeat of the current school board majority in the Nov. 2 election that Andrews has returned to a recommendation previously rejected by the board. Only days after the general election, Andrews submitted a plan to reinstate a desegregation plan at Rosemary Hills Elementary School in Silver Spring that the current board had dismantled. In both instances, the state Board of Education reversed the local board's decisions.
About 300 junior high students who live in the Forest Knolls, Pine Crest and the now closed Four Corners elementary school areas would attend Blair next year under Andrews' plan, according to sources. If approved by the new board, the boundary plan would signal a victory for civic activists and those residents of the Blair area who had complained that the board was insensitive to the school and its problem of racial imbalance.
Four new members of the school board who take office next week campaigned extensively against the current board's handling of Blair attendance boundaries and are expected to look favorably on Andrews' proposal.
Four members of the board whose terms end next week rejected Andrews' original recommendation, contending that white parents in the affected school areas would transfer their children to private schools rather than have them attend Blair.
At the time, some current board members suggested placing a performing arts magnet program at Blair. Without accompanying boundary changes, some board critics complained those actions would reduce total enrollment while increasing the percentage of minority students, which includes nearly 500 students who do not speak English as their native language. Some parents were concerned that with so few students, Blair would be unable to provide the varied range of courses it now offers.
Blair became the focus of intense debate in recent years because of a dramatic change in population in the Silver Spring area. The school board's decisions about Blair, in some ways, have become symbolic of how the county responds to the needs of its growing population of black and foreign-born residents, and of how a long-term commitment to racial integration will be played out in Montgomery in the future.
Andrews' latest plan is expected to reduce the percentage of minority students at Blair by nearly 10 percent. Currently, minority enrollment is about 60 percent at Blair, which has 1,656 students, compared to a county average of about 25 percent.
The reassignment of students from predominantly white schools, coupled with a magnet program that would offer college-level courses in math, science and computers, would increase the Blair enrollment by about 600 students and reduce minority enrollment to about 50 percent.