Montgomery County School Superintendent Wilmer S. Cody, calling his decision one of the most difficult and complex he has ever made, recommended yesterday that the planned closing this June of Northwood High School in Silver Spring proceed as scheduled.
Cody's recommendation, which now goes to the Board of Education for approval, stunned the Northwood community that has fought the closing decision relentlessly during the past three years.
"I frankly find it an astounding decision," said Freddie Hodges, chairwoman of Northwood Community Solidarity, a group challenging the school system's contention that there is not sufficient growth expected in the student population in the area to warrant keeping open the 29-year-old school. "The impact on this community is devastating. We are now a community without a high school, without a junior high school and only two elementary schools."
Cody also delayed reopening Cloverly Elementary near Burtonsville for at least a year. Cloverly was closed last year because of declining enrollments, but a burst of student enrollments -- there were 674 more students attending Montgomery schools than last year and an additional 2,260 are expected next fall -- caused school administrators to reconsider.
Northwood residents had hoped that recent unexpected surges in the student population and overcrowding in neighboring schools would sway Cody to change the decision that was first made in 1981 and then delayed by a year in 1983. But Cody said yesterday he decided to go ahead with the closing after concluding it would disrupt six high school communities and could cost nearly $10 million during the next several years to continue to operate the school.
Other school administrators said Cody felt the current student bulge in that area would disappear or decline sharply after five years.
Cody's recommendation to close Northwood is expected to be hotly debated when school board members meet in early March to vote on his proposals.
"I don't think the board is at all clear about what it will do," said board President Robert Shoenberg.