Montgomery County Public Schools reverses foreign exchange student ban

GERMANTOWN, Md. (FOX 5 DC) -- Foreign exchange students looking to get into Montgomery County Public Schools will now have more options moving forward.

The school district decided to roll back its 18-school foreign exchange student ban after community members voiced opposition to the policy.

Eighteen schools -- that was the number of facilities that wouldn't allow foreign exchange students into the buildings. School leaders chalked it up to overcrowding, but after community backlash, the district has reversed that decision.

For the 2019 - 2020 school year, MCPS will allow 50 foreign exchange students into the district. Five students will be allowed in each high school in the district with the exception of Walter Johnson, which will only accept two students, and three more schools -- Bethesda Chevy Chase, Churchill and Walt Whitman -- will accept no students at all.

"We feel that by putting this restriction of five, we're spreading our exchange students across the district but we're allowing them to experience what the home school would be for them based on the neighborhood they'd be living in and make sure they get that full MCPS experience.
It comes down to funding, it comes down to our elected officials, but everyone is working together to address those space needs within Montgomery County," said Gboyinde Onijala with MCPS.

Administrators say the problem is overcrowding. Each year, the school district sees 2,500 new students, which puts a strain on the district. Nevertheless, this appears to be a main talking point in Montgomery County.

"I think it's a great idea. I don't see a problem with bringing foreign exchange students in," one woman told FOX 5 Thursday.

"I think probably what they should be doing is banning the illegal students that are overcrowding the schools. The foreign exchange program has been around forever and I think that should be continued. That's a wonderful diplomatic tool," another woman said.

"They come here to learn. It's education. It's not something they come here to do
something bad or anything. They're little kids. They are students they want to learn. That's why they come here," said one man.

This measure is just in place for the 2019 - 2020 school year. School administrators say they will re-evaluate the next school year in order to accommodate as many exchange students as possible.