Thursday, December 17, 2009

DCMM: What's Happening to MCPS?

761298_93335176 My kids go to a very large elementary school. There are something like six kindergarten classrooms and nearly all of the third graders have class in "portables," which is misleading because they seem to be pretty permanent little additions to the outside of the school. I don't think this situation is uncommon in the Montgomery County Public School System.

What is uncommon is what is happening a couple of schools over from mine at Oakland Terrace Elementary School. There, the overcrowding is so bad that the county is looking for an interim place to stash incoming kindergartners for the next couple of years until they can build a new school, which evidently has been green lit and should be ready by 2012. No decisions have been made, but the county seems to be strongly considering putting those kindergartners into a nearby middle school

When I first heard about this, the first thing I thought was, "Oh, thank God it's not my school." And then I felt bad for all the little kindergartners going into Oakland Terrace. 

I think about my little incoming kindergartner, Quinn. I think of how heartbroken he would be if he had to attend a different school than his brothers. 

I think about my special needs son, Jack. I think of how much more difficult his kindergarten year would have been if the elementary school administrators, counselors, therapists, and other staff had been in a different building. 

I think about my oldest son, Sam. When he started kindergarten he had so much anxiety about school. I can only imagine the extra stress that being in a middle school would have created in him. 

Seriously, middle school is bad enough. Why make our kids go there twice? If I remember correctly from my own youth, those are the worst three years of a person's life. And the time when they are probably the biggest jerks. I don't know that I would want my kindergartner there. 

There are so many problems with a plan like this: how will the kindergartners get the specials (art, music, PE) that they would get otherwise? Will the lunchroom food be appropriate for five-year-olds? How will the little kids get copies of Henry & Mudge from the library? Will they be forced to read sixth-grade books? Will they have a playground to play on? Or should they just learn to go smoke with the big kids behind the gym? 

I wonder how this could have happened. I worry that the people who are responsible for educating our children weren't aware enough to see this coming. I worry about all my kids (and the other kids in the county). We're supposed to have this wonderful school system, but all I hear is that there is not any money for anything. There is a hiring freeze, teachers and staff didn't get a cost of living raise last year, and now they can't even fit all of the kids onto the school grounds. Montgomery County recently dropped out of US News & World Report's top 100 high schools in the country. And don't get me started on special education services. 

I've been hearing all this news about MCPS and taking solace in the fact that my kids are lucky enough to go to a wonderful MCPS school with caring and attentive staff that is scheduled to begin construction on an addition next year instead of sending the kindergartners off to another campus. But I look at what's happening around the county and I'm starting to worry. 

Original DC Metro Moms Blog post. 

Jean writes about counting the days until Quinn goes to kindergarten—at his brothers' school—at Stimeyland. She also runs an autism-related events website for Montgomery County at AutMont.

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