In­vest in more schools

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - Shan­non Ross, Bethesda

The Oct. 13 Metro ar­ti­cle “County school en­roll­ment tops pre­vi­ous records” brought needed at­ten­tion to the in­creased en­roll­ment and crowd­ing of Mont­gomery County schools. Our neigh­bor­hood school, Ash­bur­ton Ele­men­tary, has ca­pac­ity for about 650 stu­dents. En­roll­ment ex­ceeds 900 — rep­re­sent­ing a 57 per­cent in­crease since 2007. Un­for­tu­nately, the county’s so­lu­tion to crowd­ing is to build even big­ger schools on ex­ist­ing sites. In fact, Mont­gomery County Pub­lic Schools is con­sid­er­ing an ad­di­tion to Wal­ter John­son High School to bring its ca­pac­ity to 3,200.

This strat­egy is in sharp con­trast to the “Fi­nal School Size Study Re­port: Im­pact of Smaller Schools,” pub­lished this sum­mer by the Mary­land State Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion. That re­port made the fol­low­ing rec­om­men­da­tions: ele­men­tary schools no larger than 700 chil­dren, mid­dle schools capped at a 900-stu­dent ca­pac­ity and high schools to be built for a max­i­mum of 1,700 stu­dents. Most schools in our area are larger than th­ese rec­om­men­da­tions al­ready, and the county con­tin­ues to ap­prove new de­vel­op­ment projects that bring in even more stu­dents.

Un­less the county gets cre­ative, schools will con­tinue to suf­fer from crowd­ing. The long his­tory of high-qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion here will suf­fer, and so will prop­erty val­ues. The county needs to in­vest in more schools, not big­ger ones, be­fore ap­prov­ing more de­vel­op­ment.

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