The Washington Post

Montgomery parents protest proposed policy changes to boundary transfers

It could be harder for parents to transfer their children to high schools outside of their assigned boundaries under a policy change proposed by the Montgomery County Board of Education.

The rules currently allow students who transferred to a middle school outside of their assigned boundaries to move on automatically to the feeder high school where they’ve transferred.

The proposed policy change, however, would require parents to reapply for a transfer request if the student wants to continue to the feeder high school from the middle school to which they transferred. Otherwise, the student would have to go back to their “home” high school.

The Board of Education is reviewing the policy because of concerns related to overcrowded and underenrolled schools, among other issues.

Parents are already protesting the policy proposal. They worry their children’s social and learning environments would be disturbed if they are forced to go to a different high school with a different cohort of students.

Many parents who spoke Thursday at a Board of Education meeting opposed the changes because they fear it would disrupt the learning of students attending Rock Creek Forest Elementary School’s Spanish-language immersion program and other similar programs.

“Overcrowding is a real problem but one that can be solved in real ways,” one parent testified to the board of education Thursday. Changing the current policy could “drastically [disrupt] the educational environment” for children who have been going to school with a certain cohort of students for years, the parent said.

The “Change of School” requests are supposed to be designed for “hardships” with a few exceptions.

But the requests have steadily increased over the years, and some parents have been seeking transfers so that their children can attend schools with unique academic programs.

District officials say the change would make the rules for transferring to a high school consistent with the policy from elementary school to middle school.

The number of “Change of School” requests has increased steadily over the years. In the 2008 school year, parents in the county made 3,705 requests, with that number rising to almost 4,200 in 2012.

“We realize this policy has far reaching implications for all corners of Montgomery County,” Board of Education member Pat O’Neill said. “We will send it out for wide public comment.”

Lynh Bui is a Prince George's County public safety reporter and former Montgomery County education reporter.

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