Tensions Brew at Boundary Analysis Public Hearing

by Sarah Nove ‘20

After months of anticipation, MCPS’s boundary study has begun, and members of the community are eager to share their thoughts. The auditorium of the Carver Educational Services Center (CESC) was packed during the November 18 Districtwide Boundary Analysis Hearing, where the Board of Education heard testimonies from MCPS students and family members regarding the goals and potential outcomes of the study.

All of the students who testified urged MCPS to address overcrowding and racial and socioeconomic disparities in the study and any resulting changes. Many students shared personal experiences to illustrate their reasoning, like Jason Wood, a junior and school president at Winston Churchill, who said “Classrooms are crammed with students … In one of my larger classes, the teacher gets bombarded by questions from 30+ students and I don’t have an opportunity to get one-on-one help during class.” 

Another student, Adriana Quinonez Solano, a senior at Kennedy and legislative affairs deputy for Montgomery County Regional Student Government Association (MCR), relayed her dismay at the socioeconomic and racial disparities within MCPS. As an ESOL student in the downcounty consortium, she experiences their effects first-hand. According to Solano, a large portion of the downcounty consortium is made up of minority groups, many from immigrant families, meaning that schools there have “the burden of having to address bigger obstacles without adequate resources.” 

“Our school system has inadvertently decided that our background, skin color, language acquisition, and where we live should determine our future––that a zip code holds more power than our potential,” said Solano.

Some parents agreed with the students, but, on the whole, parents were less than enthused by the idea of using the boundary study to target inequality in MCPS. Some parents agreed that socioeconomic and racial disparities within the school system are serious issues that must be resolved, but they argued the boundary study is not the proper method to resolve them. Many of them expressed deep concern that such a study would result in boundary changes that would lengthen commutes and impede a sense of community, some citing the recent boundary studies in Howard and Fairfax counties as evidence.

Most students and parents who testified did so respectfully, but underlying tensions were clearly present. The student testimonies earned polite applause, but the first real ovation was for Dan Binstock, the third parent to testify and the first to express concern about transportation and loss of community. Binstock condemned certain community members for “labeling [others as] racist, especially online, when they say they are concerned about redistricting.”

“Dialogue and debate goes both ways,” said Binstock. “Even when the other person’s opinion makes you want to roll your eyes …  say it kindly.”

Binstock did not indicate what specific instances he was referring to, but he seemed to strike a chord with the audience. However, some audience members did not follow this advice. Though there were no direct confrontations at the meeting, certain testimonies on both sides produced some disgruntled pfts and eye-rolls among the crowd.

For a study which will not directly produce any changes, there was a distinct sense of urgency in the CESC auditorium that night. More discussion on the upcoming boundary analysis will occur over the next few months. Check out MCPS’s official timeline for more details.