Montgomery County School Superintendent Wilmer S. Cody has proposed transferring a successful French immersion magnet program from Oak View Elementary School to nearby New Hampshire Estates as part of a desegregation plan, drawing protests yesterday from parents, community leaders and even some school officials.
Cody's plan, which was presented in papers sent to the Board of Education Friday, is part of the school system's struggle to improve racial balance in 13 East Silver Spring schools with large populations of minority students. New Hampshire Estates is 92 percent minority and Oak View, which attracts dozens of white students from other parts of the county through the French program, is 40 percent minority.
Cody, who was rebuffed by the County Council on another desegregation proposal for the schools, said that, although this is "not a perfect plan, it's one that overall deals with most of the problems we have in that area."
In drafting his proposal, he said, he tried to take into account the need to create more room for magnet programs and the need to improve racial balance at New Hampshire Estates.
The plan's opponents, who saw the details of the proposal for the first time yesterday, complained that it is "educationally unsound" and would increase the number of minority students at Oak View.
A public hearing on the plan is scheduled for June 16.
If the magnet program were transferred, New Hampshire Estates' minority enrollment would fall to about 55 percent or less but Oak View's would rise to at least 55 percent, according to school officials.
Initially, the school board had agreed to pair the two schools but leave the French immersion program, in which only French is spoken, at Oak View by building a 13-room addition there.
That plan was scuttled last month when the County Council, bowing to parental objections, refused to finance it and instead gave the school board permission to add seven classrooms elsewhere. Cody's new plan would create room for French immersion at New Hampshire Estates by adding the seven rooms there.
Cody said he knows some communities will not like his proposal.
"There was some community opposition to the original plan and I assume there will be opposition to this one also," he said.
Barbara Frank, the principal of New Hampshire Estates, said the plan is "educationally unsound" because "you don't put a kindergarten-through-sixth grade program in a kindergarten-through-third grade school."
Frank said she feared that the regular English program at her school will be overshadowed by the French program.
"I think my school has been sold down the river," she said.
Nelly Maskal, copresident of the New Hampshire Estates PTA, said she opposes the plan because there isn't enough room.
Oak View community leaders also objected, saying it will leave their school underused.