The East Bethesda community would be re-assigned to Bethesda Elementary School for grades K through 5 under a boundary recommendation released Friday by Montgomery County superintendent of schools Joshua P. Starr.
Under Starr’s recommendation, the boundary changes would begin earlier than anticipated, in August of 2013. Starr also recommends an eight-classroom addition at Bethesda Elementary School, a six-classroom addition at North Chevy Chase Elementary School and a six-classroom addition at Rosemary Hills Primary School in Silver Spring.
Starr’s recommendation is the latest update in a controversial boundary study, aimed to redraw the boundaries between the four elementary schools – and schools.
The study, which drew on the input of a community-based boundary advisory committee, looked at five redistricting options and touched on issues including simplifying confusing school matriculation patterns for the East Bethesda neighborhood, relieving overcrowding and maintaining racial and demographic balance at all the schools.
Currently, some students are bused between the Rosemary Hills community in Silver Spring and Bethesda Elementary, and East Bethesda students are assigned to Rosemary Hills Primary School for grades K to 2 and Bethesda Elementary for grades 3 to 5.
Starr’s recommendation includes reassigning the East Bethesda community to Bethesda Elementary beginning in kindergarten, a move the East Bethesda community has pushed for. Residents there have raised concerns about the bus ride between their community and Rosemary Hills in Silver Spring, along with the social impacts of children beginning at Bethesda Elementary – a K to 5 school – beginning in the third grade.
Meanwhile, some in the Rosemary Hills neighborhood have raised concerns that assigning East Bethesda students to Bethesda Elementary could negatively impact demographics. The debate drew a firestorm of controversy on Patch as residents from both the and the communities voiced their viewpoints.
The controversy was complicated further as PTAs from all four schools released their opinions on the re-districting options. The Bethesda Elementary PTA was the The Rosemary Hills PTA raised concerns about an option supported by the community surrounding the school that would continue busing Rosemary Hills children to Bethesda Elementary in order to maintain demographic balance, worrying it could overcrowd the school.
Starr’s recommendation would also:
- “Reassign the Paddington Square Apartments community and the area occupied by the from Bethesda Elementary School to North Chevy Chase Elementary School for Grades 3–6. Both of these areas remain assigned to Rosemary Hills Elementary School for Grades K-2.
- Reassign the portion of the Summit Hills apartments with addresses 1703 and 1705 East- West Highway from North Chevy Chase Elementary School to Chevy Chase Elementary School for Grades 3–6."
The sixth grades at Chevy Chase and North Chevy Chase elementary schools would be assigned to a new middle school in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster once it opens. Plans for the new middle school are currently under review, and the school is the Starr reports that in his upcoming capital improvements recommendation, he will ask for the new middle school to open its doors in August of 2017.
“My recommended boundary changes directly respond to input from the Boundary Advisory Committee, and they will result in all four elementary schools—Bethesda, Chevy Chase, North Chevy Chase, and Rosemary Hills—operating within capacity in the future. In addition, the partial pairing of Rosemary Hills Elementary School with Bethesda Elementary School, a longstanding concern of communities affected by the current assignments, is ended,” Starr writes.
The Board of Education is expected to review the recommendation Nov. 2.
Correction: This story has been updated to indicate that the Bethesda Elementary School PTA was the only school PTA encompassed in the study that was able to support a redistricting option. We regret the error.