Montgomery County Council member Scott Fosler, a Chevy Chase resident and chairman of the council committee that oversees educational budget requests, said yesterday that he has some serious questions about reopening a school in the Chevy Chase area that school board members have said is integral to the success of a school integration plan.
Fosler, speaking during one of the committee's final budget work sessions and echoing a concern voiced frequently by Chevy Chase residents, said he did not understand why the council should approve the estimated $150,000 needed to reopen North Chase Elementary when it appeared that other schools in the area had sufficient space for those students.
The previous school board voted to close North Chevy Chase last year and move its open-education program to Rosemary Hills Elementary, which has a high percentage of minority students. The board acted after attempting to close Rosemary Hills, a move that was rejected by the State Board of Education.
The current board voted last month to reinstate the voluntary busing plan between Chevy Chase Elementary and Rosemary Hills and to reopen North Chevy Chase after Superintendent Edward Andrews said the open-education program was not working at Rosemary Hills. At the same time, the board voted to include North Chevy Chase in the integration program. Chevy Chase Elementary parents have appealed the plan to the state board. A ruling is expected next Wednesday.
Fosler, who said he supported some form of integration plan in the area, explained he had problems with supporting funding for North Chevy Chase when the $367 million school budget request is $6 million more than County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist has recommended.
Fosler's committee, which also includes council President David Scull, whose daughter attended North Chevy Chase and is now at Rosemary Hills, is scheduled to make recommendations to the full council on the school budget by the end of this month.
School board members at the three-hour session countered that if the open-education program is to be retained and a reasonable minority balance at Rosemary Hills achieved, North Chevy Chase must be reopened. If North Chevy Chase remained closed, board President Blair Ewing said, at least half the Rosemary Hills students would never attend their neighborhood school--which he said no other county students encounter. Without an integration plan, Rosemary Hills would have a 90 percent minority enrollment.
The meeting followed a news conference by former board president Elizabeth Spencer and members of the Quality Public Schools Coalition, who criticized the board for approving at least half of Gilchrist's recommended cuts.