Gaithersburg residents object to school plans

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Gaithersburg logoGAITHERSBURG — More than two dozen city residents came to City Hall Monday night to voice opposition to a proposal by Montgomery County Public Schools to construct a new elementary school on the site of Kelley Park.  Located in the Saybrooke neighborhood on the city’s east side, the park includes green space, playground and baseball diamonds which are used in the summer by the Cal Ripken Collegiate League.

School construction has long been a hot button issue in Gaithersburg, where many of the MCPS elementary schools which serve the city are operating over capacity.


Leggett proposes modest spending increase

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County Executive Ike Leggett.  FILE PHOTOCounty Executive Ike Leggett.      FILE PHOTO  Calling it a prudent attempt to guide Montgomery County through fiscal uncertainty, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) released the final budget proposal of his last term as county executive Thursday, putting forward a $5.56 billion operating budget – increasing spending by 2 percent – for Fiscal Year 2019, with most of the increase directed to Montgomery County Public Schools.

“This budget continues my commitment to prudent fiscal policies critical to sound fiscal management,” Leggett said. “I have increased our reserve levels to cushion the taxpayers against any future unanticipated economic setbacks and included the required level of funding for retiree health benefits."

Leggett had stressed caution in the weeks leading up to the budget announcement, promising that it would not include a property tax increase, with the caveat that it was unlikely that he would propose drastic spending increases in most areas thanks to the current budget’s $120 million shortfall.


County schools closing Wednesday due to snow forecast

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Person walking in snowstormMontgomery County Public Schools are closed Wednesday due to “emergency weather conditions,” according to MCPS officials.

“All school and community activities in school buildings are also canceled,” MCPS officials said. “All administrative offices are open. Day care programs in school buildings may remain open as scheduled.”


MCPS to review protocols after Florida shooting

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MCPS logoROCKVILLE Montgomery County Public Schools officials will review emergency response drills and security practices after a number of County schools received threats in the wake of the Valentine’s Day school shooting which took the lives of 17 people in Florida.

Henry Johnson, chief of staff to MCPS superintendent Jack Smith, said MCPS administrators will work with Department of School Safety and Security employees to review emergency procedures for situations such as a school lockdown and consider changes, including modifications to current training programs.


“How much blood?”

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Local high school students join protest at White House demanding gun control 

Local high school students join the protests at the White House Wednesday. PHOTO BY SUZANNE POLLAKLocal high school students join the protests at the White House Wednesday.                   PHOTO BY SUZANNE POLLAK  Hundreds of County high school students walked out of class at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday en route to the U.S. Capitol, where they rallied in favor of gun control.

After walking to the nearest Metro Station, classmates came together at Union Station to show their outrage against the National Rifle Association and to demand something be done to stop school shootings.

At Montgomery Blair, students said that while school officials did not sanction the protest, they took no action to stop it.

As the students streamed out of the school, Assistant Principal Dirk Cauley addressed them through a megaphone, warning them to follow their police escort and stay on the sidewalks.

Besides Blair, high school students from Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Richard Montgomery, Northwood, Einstein, Wootton, Oneness Family Montessori School in Kensington among others marched up First Street to the Capitol, where they heard short speeches by Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-8th District) and Jen Pauliukonis, president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence.

“It’s ridiculous how they are not making this into a big enough deal,” Blair sophomore Griffith Wacht said. “We are doing this to show them they can’t get away with it,” he said, referring to Congressional inaction concerning gun control.


Police react to multiple school threats within the past week

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policecar1 300x200 1Montgomery County Police are investigating a series of alleged threats received at local high schools in the last week – ranging from bomb threats to potential shootings.

The threats to public schools come at a time of heightened focus on school security in the wake of last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. where 17 people were killed.

Last week a school resource officer assigned to Clarksburg High School received a tip alleging that a student was in possession of a loaded firearm at school. Officers quickly located the student and confiscated the weapon. A subsequent search of that student’s home this week revealed an arsenal of weaponry including an AR-15-style rifle.

“The School Resource Officer (SRO) program is key in handling initial complaints of a possible threat to school safety,” Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger said in an email statement. “There is a significant level of trust between school staff and the SROs. This trust helps bring about good cooperation and communication between the students and the SROs.”


Students question security at local high schools

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MCPS logoStudents at Northwood High School in Silver Spring walk along the side of the school towards the main entrance every morning before the first bell rings. With neither an assigned uniform nor a dress code, only their backpacks mark them as students. One by one, each student walks by the security guard without showing identification, without going through a metal detector, and without being questioned about their enrollment at the school.

“I don’t think [security] works, like anyone can really get in like there’s been other people from different schools just come in and show up here,” said 17-year-old junior Christine Leon.

Leon is just one of the many students there who have their own opinion regarding school safety and security; some students say safety is based on which officer is monitoring the building.

“It depends on the person, like the security person but they’re pretty good as far as I know,” said 17-year-old senior Tsion Tesfaye.


Two bomb threats phoned into Montgomery County high schools Wednesday morning

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MCPS logoMontgomery County Public Schools officials evacuated two county high schools Wednesday morning after unknown persons called the schools with bomb threats.

The first of the two threats was phoned in to Winston Churchill High School in Potomac at approximately 7:20 a.m., after which school officials ordered the building evacuated. Following a short delay, students and teachers returned to the building by 8:30 a.m. after Montgomery County Police responded to the situation and cleared the school for re-entry, Montgomery County Public Schools Spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala said.

 “Based on a very limited general call, we checked out the building and found nothing there,” said Montgomery County Police Spokesman Capt. Paul Starks. “They’re back to normal functioning.”


Police maintain presence Tuesday at Gaithersburg HS due to reported threat

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Gaithersburg Police will continue to maintain a police presence at Gaithersburg High School all day Tuesday after concerned parents and students reported a possible threat to the school over the Presidents’ Day holiday.

The police deployment represents the fourth threat-related incident at a Montgomery County high school in the days following the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., during which a former student killed 17 people with a high-powered rifle.

“Yes, there was a rumor going around of a possible threat to the high school,” said Gaithersburg Police Officer Dan Lane, a department spokesperson. “As a result of it, detectives did investigate the threat to see if it was credible or not.”

The threat, Lane said, came in the form of a social media posting, though he admitted that he had not seen the posting in question.

“I’ve just seen the text message sent to a group of people stating that there’s possibly going to be an incident at the high school,” he said. “As a result for a concern of staff and students, we have increased police presence here. We have been there all morning.”


School graduation rates vary across the County

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MCPS logoMontgomery County public schools officials brag about its high school graduation rates that are higher than the state average, but that is only partially true, according to a new state report posted online last month. 

MCPS officials boasted that the county high school graduation rate for the adjusted 4-year cohort was 89.5 percent, a decrease of 0.3 percentage points from 2016, but which was higher than the state average. 

However, nine of Montgomery County's 25 high schools' graduation rates dipped below the state graduation rate, which officials measure in terms of the “four-year cohort.”

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