The story, “Board of Ed president intrigued by privatization,” which ran in The Gazette on Wednesday caught my attention.
I like the idea of leveraging private dollars to add classroom seats. And yet, I wonder to what degree Montgomery County Public Schools and the county would allow private entities adding classroom seats to deviate. Deviate? Deviating from what is the norm seems awfully important, and perhaps the only way we could get private entities and developers to build schools. I cannot see private entities lining up if the only expectation is they would build a “normal” school. For this idea to work, the private entities have to get something significant out of the deal—and that means deviating from the norm.
There is a great local example of such a private partnership: Oyster Bilingual Elementary School, a D.C. public elementary school located in Northwest Washington. Back in the early 1990’s, the old Oyster was set to close. Parents stepped in and, with the creation of a private partnership, got a new Oyster built. The new building opened in 2001. Click here to read more of Oyster's story.
In a nutshell, the new Oyster got built because the Oyster parent group and the private developer, working together, were allowed a lot of creativity. The private developer was allowed to split the old Oyster school site into two parts and then permitted to build the new Oyster school on one part and a 211-unit apartment building on the other part. The apartment complex is the something significant that the private entity got out of the deal. Note to self: If I ran the world, a few apartment units at a discount would be set aside for school staff and low-income families with children attending the school.
So, would MCPS do this or something like this? There is no history that they would. However, following the Oyster model certainly is worth a field trip to D.C.