Rosemary Hills Elementary School in Silver Spring, a national symbol of voluntary school desegregation, has become a success story over the past year, Montgomery County officials say.
Enrollment has increased by 152, outpacing the county school system's projections by 35, and the school is managing to attract white students from outside the local community, according to school officials.
The news comes a little more than a year after 31 of the 42 parents of Chevy Chase students assigned to the school signed sworn statements that they intended to send their children to private schools rather than participate in the integration plan. But school officials' predictions that kindergarten enrollment could be as low as 70 failed to come true last year. This year, there are 150 kindergarten students, 47 more than the school system's projection.
Rosemary Hills, which serves kindergarten through second grade, became the focus of debate over the county's integration effort and its voluntary busing plan in 1981. At that time the school board, led by Marian Greenblatt, voted to undo the plan, which bused students from the predominately white North Chevy Chase and Chevy Chase school areas to Rosemary Hills.
In July 1982, the Maryland Board of Education overturned the board's decision, calling it "arbitrary and unreasonable." The state board's decision was a victory for prointegration activists that carried over to the 1982 election, in which the Greenblatt-led majority was swept out of office.
"The board wanted this to succeed and to succeed fast. It shows how magnificently the school district can perform with the proper resources," school board member Blair Ewing said at a board meeting this month after receiving news of the increased enrollment. "There's a change in the public attitude. People are saying to me that integration is really working."
School officials credit special curriculum offerings -- the "magnet" concept -- for attracting students from other areas in the county. The magnet program includes courses in computers, science and math as well as an enlarged program for gifted and talented students. Among its special offerings are 12 computers and a math lab.