ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: What it means to be a “W” school

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: What it means to be a W school

Geoffrey Pisarra

Twenty years ago, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) was a predominantly white, middle class county. Since then, the county has transformed from this into one where minorities have become the majority, and much more disadvantaged.

These changes have been unequally distributed throughout to the east and north parts of the county, creating the “W Schools”– Thomas S. Wootton, Walt Whitman, Walter Johnson and Winston Churchill.These schools, unlike the rest of the county, have not changed much, and some have become whiter and richer than they used to be.  “As a student at one of these schools, it’s much less noticeable to me,” senior Sofia Ortiz said. “It’s hard to take a step back and look at the big picture.”

Since the shift, these distributions have become apparent in several aspects of school including the achievement gap. The problem has also seeped into other aspects of the county that may be less apparent, like sports and clubs.

All sports in the county cost money, whether it is for shoes, uniforms, or pads, they all need some sort of equipment that is to be paid for, and the more expensive they are, the more of a gap there is between the “W schools” and the others.

The difference between “W Schools” and other schools has become apparent in the county hockey league. Youth hockey costs anywhere between $3,000 and 6,000 per year on average, a drastic change from about $1,000 in 2000, and as the county has become more divided, the hockey league has gone along with it.

Wootton, Whitman and Churchill have finished as the top three teams in the county every year since 2006, with the exception of BCC placing second in 2007. Other schools like Damascus, Gaithersburg and Clarksburg didn’t have enough players to make their own teams, so recently were forced to join together to create one. While this was happening, the more affluent schools has so many kids who wanted to and were able to start a junior varsity league. “As a player, you only see it as your team being better at hockey than the other teams,” sophomore hockey player Hunter Band said. “You forget how expensive everything is.”

Dividing the rich and poor schools by neighborhoods has only worsened the problem. When a business is looking to start up or relocate, they generally target higher income areas where more people are able to afford their products. Struggling schools such as Northwood or Wheaton may never have these opportunities for business and the ability to raise their area up.

The county is making efforts to improve the the problems, but as of now the separation between the “W schools” and the others is as bad as ever. “I am confident that we will continue to be united in our efforts to serve the nearly 160,000 students in our district,” Board of education president Michael Durso said to MCPS.

Charlie Eichberg