New school boundaries proposed in Silver Spring

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Local,Leah Fabel

A new Montgomery County schools boundary proposal would ease overcrowding in Silver Spring, but could lead to a packed middle school in the near future.

Under Superintendent Jerry Weast's proposal, Sligo Creek Elementary School would lose the most students, easing the pressure on its bursting seams.

The proposal comes at a time when the school district is experiencing a sharp turnaround in enrollment after years of slight declines. The district has about 142,000 students this year, up from fewer than 138,000 just two years ago.

Sligo Creek enrolled about 650 students this year, up from 615 last year and about 120 over its official capacity. As a result, the conference room is now a kindergarten room while conferences are held in a trailer that doubles as a music classroom, Principal Diantha Swift said at a recent PTA meeting.

The extra students, all of whom live in neighborhoods on the border of Montgomery and Prince George's counties, would move to Takoma Park Elementary, a kindergarten through third-grade school, or neighboring Piney Branch Elementary, which teaches grades one through five. As opposed to Sligo Creek, both schools expect empty classroom seats in coming years.

But by rerouting Sligo Creek students into the Takoma Park schools, a new burden would shift to Takoma Park Middle School when the youngsters graduate from elementary school in several years.

"The majority of parents were happy to have the kids that had been at Sligo come to Takoma and Piney Branch," said Ally Zevin, co-president of the PTA at Piney Branch. "But it would be a shame if that affected the middle school negatively."

Levin said the county's PTAs supported opening nearby Silver Spring International Middle School as a "choice school," meaning it would operate somewhat like a magnet school where students from outside its boundaries could enroll in its unique programs. Because of its proximity, that option would likely attract some students away from Takoma Park Middle and ease its crowding.

Changes to Silver Spring International were not a part of Weast's proposal, but could be worked in by the school board, should they craft an alternative plan.

"We have an opportunity to put forward an alternative" before approval later this year, said school board member Pat O'Neill. "I haven't heard from parents about doing that yet, but that doesn't mean I won't soon."

lfabel@washingtonexaminer.com

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Leah Fabel

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner