Two members of the Montgomery County Board of Education have proposed alternatives to School Superintendent Wilmer S. Cody's controversial plan to move a successful French language magnet program as part of a plan to desegregate schools with predominantly minority enrollments.
One plan would keep the popular program at Oak View Elementary, another would split it between Oak View and another school while a third would move it to two other schools.
Cody has called for moving the French immersion program from Oak View to New Hampshire Estates Elementary, where more classrooms would be added, and pairing the Silver Spring schools.
That plan has been vigorously opposed as "educationally unsound" by the New Hampshire Estates community.
Parents with children in Oak View's regular English-language program oppose the pairing plan, which would place kindergarten through third grade pupils in Oak View and fourth through sixth graders in New Hampshire Estates.
One of the alternatives to Cody's plan, proposed by board member Sharon DiFonzo, would keep the French program at Oak View and add portable classrooms there. If that were done, it would leave intact the school board's original plan to pair the two elementary schools and leave French immersion at Oak View.
Several board members said yesterday that the only disadvantage to that proposal is that the portable classrooms would be used as permanent classrooms contrary to school board policy.
"This proposal has the fewest disadvantages," said DiFonzo. "It's the original plan everyone testified to. It's the plan we voted on and that we argued for before the council. The only problem is the portables."
School officials have been struggling for months to devise a desegregation plan for 13 Blair Cluster schools in Silver Spring, where minority enrollments averaged 60 percent this year.
The plan for pairing Oak View and New Hampshire Estates was adopted last fall, but it was scuttled when the County Council refused to fund a 13-room addition at Oak View.
County Council President William Hanna said yesterday the proposal to put portable classrooms at Oak View "doesn't make me happy."
Hanna was one of four council members who voted against adding rooms to Oak View because of the expense and the fact that the school was remodeled two years ago.
Council member David Scull said the council would not be able to stop the school board from putting portables at Oak View. "There isn't any council role in those decisions," Scull said. "It's up to them."
School board member Blair Ewing has suggested that the French immersion program be housed at both Oak View and New Hampshire Estates or that New Hampshire Estates be paired with nearby Highland View Elementary with the French program housed at both schools.
Ewing said he does not necessarily favor either of his proposals over Cody's plan. Under Cody's school proposal, New Hampshire Estates' minority enrollment would decline from about 92 percent to 55 percent, while Oak View's would rise from 40 percent to at least 55 percent.
The alternatives proposed would have roughly the same result.
The school board is scheduled to make a decision next Tuesday.
About 300 cheering parents gathered at school board headquarters last night to speak in favor or against the various proposals.
Parents of pupils enrolled in the French program at Oak View carried a makeshift coffin into the room with a sign that said "It's death to French if you split the program." The Oak View PTA, however, was split, with parents of French program pupils favoring the pairing if the program is left intact and parents of pupils in the regular English program opposing the pairing under any circumstances.