Report Considers High School Program Design

October 28, 2005
Student Assignment Plans are Not Yet Under Consideration

Superintendent of Schools Jerry D. Weast has included with his capital budget proposal released this week the recommendations of the New High School Work Group on program concepts for a new high school that would address the need for increased high school capacity in the central area of Montgomery County.

Although the availability of such a high school is years away, the work group was asked to consider academic program possibilities for a new high school, review research on successful high school programs, develop ideas for consideration, and identify potential capital funding needs.

At this time, the new high school would relieve potential overcrowding in four high schools: Gaithersburg, Northwest, Quince Orchard, and Thomas S. Wootton.

Two other high schools--Winston Churchill and Col. Zadok Magruder--are no longer being included in planning discussions for the new school. In addition, no plans are being made for specific student assignment decisions. Given that the proposed new school would not open for six to ten years, any discussion of student assignments would be premature.

Nonetheless, rumors and allegations about students being reassigned out of the Winston Churchill cluster have been circulating in the community, despite efforts by the staff of the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) to correct them and to inform parents and other residents that the claims are untrue.

In any case, any future student assignment planning process would follow Board of Education Policy FAA, Long-range Educational Facilities Planning, and would include public notice, opportunities for public testimony, and public action taken by the Board of Education.

The work group report includes innovative approaches to the delivery of the academic program and ways in which a “new concept” high school might connect to institutions of higher education, the business community, and the community at large. Any program changes considered for the new high school also would be considered for other MCPS high schools.

The New High School Work Group was formed in March 2005, at the request of Dr. Weast, to help guide changes as the school system considers how best to design and deliver programs for high school students. The group represents a wide range of stakeholders, including parents, students, school system administrators, teachers, and representatives of higher education. Co-chairs of the group were Dr. Frieda Lacey, deputy superintendent of schools, and Mr. Larry Bowers, chief operating officer.

In a supplement to the Recommended FY 2007 Capital Budget and the FY 2007-2012 Capital Improvements Program (CIP), the superintendent applauded the work of the group and asked that an educational specifications committee be established to review the concepts brought forth in the report. The committee would include school system staff and PTA representatives from the four clusters potentially affected by a new high school, as well as representatives from the next three high schools scheduled for modernization that have not completed facility planning ¯Paint Branch, Wheaton, and Seneca Valley.

Dr. Weast also recommended that a site selection committee be convened in spring 2006. A request for funding for a facility planning study will be considered in a future CIP recommendation once a site is selected and the education specifications have been fully developed. A plan for student assignment would be made in the fall of the year before the school is scheduled to open, which could be as many as ten years in the future.

The New High School Work Group Report and Supplement A of the Superintendent's Recommended FY 2007 Capital Budget and 2007-2012 Capital Improvements Programs is on the MCPS Web site.

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