With over 200 schools and over 163,000 students, Montgomery County is Maryland’s largest school district and one of the most diverse in the state. These 163,000 students are funneled into their respective schools through geographical areas called clusters. Students, based on location, are assigned to elementary and middle schools which then feed into their respective high schools. Montgomery County currently has around 20 clusters.
On January 8, the Board of Education resolution passed to hire a consultant to re-examine the cluster boundaries and provide feedback to the Board. Since boundary changes can affect which students attend which schools, the consultation will provide insight into solving overpopulation and increasing student diversity within a school.
This resolution was proposed by Student Member of the Board, Ananya Tadikonda, and she hopes the study will “examine opportunities to increase facility utilization and diversity” and notes the plentiful evidence saying how diverse schools benefit all students.
Originally, Tadikonda proposed a spring deadline for the consultants’ report, but extended it to 2020 due to the other Board Members’ suggestions. Tadikonda explained,“When we’re doing something this big, we want to make sure we do it right.”
Although the report cannot recommend specific boundary changes, it can provide general recommendations that the Board of Education has the freedom to choose to act on or not.
Tadikonda further points out the issue of equity, emphasizing that “separate is inherently unequal” and that as a system, we ought to “cultivate equitable opportunities for all.” Although the study may not be the most convenient or easiest option, Tadikonda stresses the need for this study and is even overdue. On a similar note, MCR president Nate Tinbite said, “We as a county need to do more to help students of marginalized backgrounds reach their fullest potential” and “While de jure segregation has ended, de facto segregation has been alive and well,” referring to schools strongly divided by socioeconomic status.
The only Board Member opposing the resolution was District 2 board member Rebecca Smondrowski. Ms. Smondrowski agreed with the concept of the boundary study, and explained to Bethesda Magazine, “The issue for me isn’t whether or not we should do a boundary study, I think we should. I think we’re rushing it.”
As for the timeline of how the resolution will play out, according to Superintendent Jack Smith and Bethesda Magazine, the bid for the project will be between May and June, awarded in the Fall, and the final report received no later than June 2020.
For reference, please see below for a full copy of Ananya Tadikonda’s passed resolution.