One long-standing line of thought - that all students generated by future development under the Westbard Sector Plan would be districted into the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School cluster - was called into question at last Thursday evening's public hearing. A BCC cluster coordinator questioned that idea before the Montgomery County Planning Board, who were taking testimony on the plan draft.
Nothing concrete has been put forward at the elementary school level yet, but construction of a new cluster middle school is in the works in Kensington. Parents are unlikely to find sending their kids that far away to middle school appealing, but that's another story.
The cluster coordinator noted that there is simply no more room at BCC High School. There is an addition being built there in the next 5 years. But that added capacity is forecast to already be maxed-out by its completion in 2020.
She also brought up an important point that doesn't seem to come up in Westbard-related school discussions. In addition to the 2000+ new units on the way in "Westbard", there are thousands more planned for construction in Chevy Chase Lake and Lyttonsville. Those Purple Line-facilitated developments will generate their own students.
All of this begs the question, just how could all new students be funneled into the BCC cluster? And again, it's important to point out that neither planners, nor the Planning Board, have the authority to set boundaries of MCPS school districts. They can recommend. They can promise. But they can't redistrict. And, frankly, existing parents have no interest in their current or future Whitman and BCC students being put into another district, even though that move is virtually inevitable if this draft plan is moved forward as-is.
It's clear that short of ramming this draft through over vehement community objections, an unprecedented effort is going to have to be made to identify schools that will be reopened, future school sites the County will have to acquire at top dollar, and the development revenue vehicle that will fund these acquisition and construction costs. I don't see why it wouldn't be achievable, but parents are demanding these kind of details upfront. The County needs to provide them.
Stay tuned for more coverage of the Westbard public hearings this week.