The Effects of Brown vs. The Board of Education in Montgomery County
The 1970s were a turbulent time in MCPS history. A generally declining school-age population resulted in the closure of many schools, and a rising minority population changed the make-up of school populations, especially down-county. Various mandatory closure and bussing plans were suggested to help maintain a balanced student body. Some schools, such as Westbrook Elementary, fought closure successfully. Other schools attempted a more voluntary kind of bussing: Whitman High School and Bannockburn Elementary School, for example, held exchange programs with Washington DC schools.
Rosemary Hills Elementary School, in Silver Spring, was a diverse school with several progressive educational programs in place. In the early 1970s, with apparently no prior communication with the community, Superintendent Elseroad announced that the next year Rosemary Hills would be closed, and turned into “model school” which only 10% of the children in the school district would attend; the rest would be bussed to other schools, including Rollingwood in Chevy Chase. A group of both white and black parents, angered by the plan and the way in which it was announced, quickly organized parents and teachers against the proposal, which was seen as a racially motivated maneuver, as Rosemary Hills had the potential to become a majority black school.
The original model school plan was abandoned, and for several years the school continued on its progressive track. Community involvement in the school rose; the crisis at Rosemary Hills, as one participating parent said, “forced us in the community to look at ourselves and really to begin to examine very closely and very carefully where we are going.”
In 1976, Rosemary Hills was once again affected by integration issues, as were many other schools. A plan was devised whereby all students aged Kindergarten through 2nd grade in the Rosemary Hills and Chevy Chase Elementary School districts would attend Rosemary Hills; all children aged 3rd through 6th grades in the same areas would attend Chevy Chase. The plan was hotly debated at its initial inception, and by 1981, the complaints were increasing. As it was during the initial integration of schools, the issue was portrayed by some as an economic, not racial, problem, with the divide between wealthy Chevy Chase and less affluent Silver Spring highlighted by the split school. In 1982, more elementary schools were closed, and students were returned to “consolidated, integrated K-6 schools,” according to a 1983 article in the Montgomery Journal.
Today, Rosemary Hills – nicknamed The Rainbow School, because of its diverse student body – is once again a K-2 school, with an instructional program focused on math, science and computers. Students go on to Chevy Chase Elementary or North Chevy Chase Elementary for 3-5, and are part of the Westland Middle School/Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School cluster.