Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is the largest school system in Maryland, and the seventeenth largest in the U.S. It boasts an annual budget of $2.2 billion and an Office of Communications with a budget of more than $1.5 million.
MCPS recently hosted a State of the Schools event, has a televised Superintendent’s Book Club, and a TV show hosted by the Superintendent. No one would argue that these expenditures are secondary to those that provide the minimum necessary services for students.
It is widely accepted that the crown jewel of the system’s educational programs is the Science, Mathematics, and Computer Science Magnet Program within Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring. According to the Magnet webpage, the program has produced more National Merit Semifinalists than any other school in the state for over a decade. In addition, the program usually boasts a number of Semifinalists and finalists in the Intel (formerly Westinghouse) Science Talent Search and the Siemens Competition. Just yesterday, the Intel Science Talent Search 2013, announced the largest number of semifinalists in Maryland were from the program.
Magnet students are bused from all over Montgomery County to Blair, and often endure a long travel time that begins before regular high school bus stop times. The return home can be complicated by traffic snarls on the Beltway, making for a long school day.
On certain routes, middle school students attending the Eastern Humanities and Communication Magnet Program are crammed with students attending the high school magnet. The buses can sometimes be overcrowded, creating a safety hazard. High school magnet students who are let out late can run the risk of missing the bus and waiting for the activity bus or getting home on public transportation.
The Examiner has learned that the school system will not be providing timely transportation home for these students during the crucial exam week. Students who rely on the transportation provided by the school will have to wait approximately three hours for school buses to arrive for the ride home. In addition, students have been warned that they may not be able to remain indoors during the approximately three hours. Time that can be better spent catching up on sleep or preparing for final exams may be wasted waiting for the school bus. In fact, teachers recommend one of these options. However, some students may not have that choice, thanks to the school system’s inability to provide timely transportation home.
On January 8, 2013, the Superintendent tweeted that “We must teach our kids to think, not just do.” Surely, the school system must first provide our kids the environment that is conducive to learning? It is hard to understand why a school system that is proposing “$94,000 to create a summer program that will help support a college-going mindset for our students,” isn’t willing to provide the basic services to support a learning mindset.
The school system, it seems, is failing the very students whose achievements it loves to tout.
At the time of going to press no response was received to an email to the Superintendent and the Board of Education.
NOTE: A copy of the school system's proposed budget is available here.
UPDATE: A voicemail from Blair, received on the morning of January 13, 2013, states that the cafeteria will be open for students to remain indoors and supervision will be available. All MCPS high schools will lack timely transportation home due to early release during exam week.
UPDATE: This column confirmed yesterday that students were able to stay indoors. Kudos to the Community Superintendent and Principal Johnson for their swift action.