The definition of a Board of Education district in Montgomery County is a geographical area that a high school cluster is bound by. As of now, the current borders of school districts in MCPS are being brought into question, with many considering the idea of redistricting. Because of the potential for addressing problems in the current districts and a more even dispersion of resources, the MCPS Board of Education should further consider redistricting as an opportunity to improve the current state of their schools.
Some have argued that redistricting would negatively impact the county community, and that further complications would arise if families lived too far away from the schools or other students. According to an article by Dick Uliano of WTOP, “‘Rami Kandel, a parent of four childen, three of whom currently attend county schools[ said that] ‘A significant redistricting where families don’t live near schools or the families of other students would tear apart the fabric and displace any remaining sense of community across the county.’”
This concern, while legitimate, is vague and undefined. As long as the reapportioned districts do not make it impossible for students to be transported to school on time, an unspecified loss in a “sense of community” would most likely be worth taking, if it meant that school resources would be more evenly distributed.
According to The Washington Post, its a previous redistricting attempt in Washington, DC attempted to “preserv[e] a neighborhood school system while providing pathways for children to gain access to schools outside their immediate neighborhoods.” Regardless of the success of that attempt, MCPS, by aiming to approach these goals, would be able to minimize any loss in students’ ability to go to schools while still allowing for a better distribution of resources and greater diversity.
There is still a possibility that the redistricting attempt will be unsuccessful. A study by Daniel I. Tannenbaum of the University of Chicago came to the conclusion “that redistricting disproportionately benefits the advantaged, and in [the case of Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s school redistricting attempt], its effects were economically large, valued by households at up to 8 percent of housing cost.” However, these risks should not dissuade the board from considering the possibility. If it is successful, redistricting could result in many current problems, especially those of resource distribution, being solved. Such an endeavour is worth examining, at least as a possibility.
As of now, students have complained about specific problems with the current districts of MCPS. According to an article by Margaret Barthel of WAMU, “Montgomery County Students for Change leader Michael Solomon, a junior at Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, cited his research on the decades-old policy decision to create the Downcounty and Northeast consortiums, [claiming that] the consortiums ultimately did not include two of the whiter, wealthier schools in their geographic area, Sherwood High School and Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.” In order to address the students’ complaints and improve the county’s school programs, the MCPS Board of Education should consider redistricting as a potential method of rectifying the current issues with its district apportionment.
They say “change is a good thing,” but that isn’t always the case. Change is sometimes for the worst and redistricting is one of these unnecessary changes. Redistricting would tear communities apart, and leave students separated.
Growing up, friends are some of the most important people in students’ lives. They see them nearly everyday at school and grow long relationships that can last a lifetime. Outside of school, how are they supposed to meet up with their friends if they live in the next town over, miles and miles away?
It’s more difficult for parents to get engaged with the PTSA when the parents don’t live in the same city. How are students expected to get to restaurant fundraisers if they need to take a lengthy drive to get there. With no sense of community due to the distance between one another, it’s a challenge for schools to raise funds and afford classroom necessities.
One of the staples of the high school experience is having school spirit: repping your colors, going to sporting events and fundraisers and being prideful of the school you attend. Students who are forced to move schools have to adopt a new school identity, buy all new merchandise and go to different school events with different colors and a different name.
One of our neighboring counties, Howard County, has gone through a similar experience with pushback from the community. Protestors show concern for their community’s identity and their children’s well-being. Howard County Public Schools board member Christina Delmont-Small voiced her issues with the process and the strain it puts on people affected. “The redistricting process is broken, and I believe we failed our students and our parents and our community,” Delmont-Small said.
Getting enough sleep is often a struggle for students, with the CDC recommending teenagers receive 8-10 hours a night. With all of the studying and homework students get assigned each day and extracurriculars that dig into their schedules, students will often be awake into the night cramming for their upcoming test or racing to finish their unfinished work. Having to get up earlier for a longer commute results in less sleep and less focus during class.
Riding on a school bus isn’t a pleasant experience. When it’s hot outside it’s an oven and when it’s cold it’s a freezer. The engines are deafening and the stiff tires create a choppy experience that jerk the seatbelt-less students from side to side. Why would you want to subject anyone to something like that and for a lengthy amount of time at that.
Whether you believe redistricting would help or harm communities of students and parents, it’s important to have an open mind about the issue. This change of environment would be beneficial to some students and provide them with a better learning space, yet would have negative effects on communities. The county should not change the borders of districts, and should instead should focus on helping the students who already attend.