Montgomery Blair High School

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Montgomery Blair High School
51 University Boulevard East
Silver Spring, Maryland 20901-2451
United States
Coordinates 39°1′5″N 77°0′41″W / 39.01806°N 77.01139°W / 39.01806; -77.01139Coordinates: 39°1′5″N 77°0′41″W / 39.01806°N 77.01139°W / 39.01806; -77.01139
Type Public (Magnet) Secondary
Motto Crescens Scientia
(To Expand Knowledge)
Established 1925
Opened 1935
Oversight Montgomery County Public Schools
Principal Renay C. Johnson
Faculty approx. 330
Grades 9–12
Number of students 3,083
Campus size 42-acre (170,000 m2)
Campus type Suburban
Color(s) Red and White          
Athletics 23 varsity sports
Athletics conference MPSSAA Montgomery County League
Mascot The Blazer
Newspaper Silver Chips
Yearbook Silverlogue

Montgomery Blair High School (MBHS) is a public high school located in Montgomery County, Maryland, United States.

The school was named after Montgomery Blair, a lawyer who represented Dred Scott in his United States Supreme Court case and who served as Postmaster General under President Abraham Lincoln.[1] It originally opened in 1925 as Takoma Park-Silver Spring High School. In 1935, however, Montgomery Blair High School opened at 313 Wayne Avenue, a location overlooking Sligo Creek, now occupied by Silver Spring International Middle School. In 1998, the campus moved two miles (3 km) north to the Kay Tract, a long-vacant tract of land adjacent to the Capital Beltway.

The school has two magnet programs: the Math/Science/Computer Science Magnet and the Communication Arts Program (CAP), which draw students from both the Silver Spring area and across Montgomery County, and make up approximately 15% of Blair's student population.[2] It is a member of the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science and Technology (NCSSSMST).

Prior to the 2010 U.S. Census the school was within the Silver Spring census-designated place, but as of 2015 it now resides in the Four Corners CDP.[3][4]


Philadelphia-Chicago Campus Era (1925–1935)

Montgomery Blair High School, then known as Takoma-Silver Spring High School, became the first high school to serve Silver Spring, Maryland when it opened in 1925 with 86 students. The 3.8-acre (15,000 m2) campus was located at the corner of Philadelphia Avenue and Chicago Avenue in suburban Takoma Park, Maryland. By the end of the 1920s the school had expanded to host students in eighth and ninth grades, who attended the school's junior high school, as well as tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades, who attended the school's senior high school. As Silver Spring and Takoma Park continued to rapidly grow, the school eventually encompassed all levels from kindergarten to twelfth grade. By 1934, the school was over-capacity with a total enrollment of 450 students, and so, in September 1935, the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades relocated to a new high school named Montgomery Blair Senior High School, also known as the Wayne Avenue Campus. During the transition period, students, teachers, and administrators had to commute between the two campuses and created the annual yearbook, Silverlogue.

Wayne Avenue Campus Era (1935–1998)

When Montgomery Blair High School's 23.5-acre (95,000 m2) Wayne Avenue campus opened in March 1935, it was the sixth high school in Montgomery County, and the first in the lower county. One of several Montgomery County schools designed during that period by Howard Wright Cutler, the facility then consisted only of the C building, overlooking Sligo Creek. In 1936, the Auxiliary Gymnasium was added, followed by the B building in 1940, and the D building in 1942. MBHS's first football team was founded in 1944, and the War Memorial Stadium opened in 1947. In 1950, the A building was constructed, containing the Blair Library/Media Center. With the addition of the Main Gymnasium/Fieldhouse in 1954, MBHS possessed one of the finest basketball and football facilities in the county. The E building was added in 1959 as an administrative section, followed by the 1969 opening of the 1200-seat Elizabeth Stickley Auditorium. The most recent addition was the automotive shop building in 1973.[citation needed]

During World War II, students from the University of Maryland taught several classes, and in some cases, able senior students taught sophomore classes. The Blair Library created the "Senior Corner" to honor those who had not returned from war. Life Magazine featured the school's Victory Corps close order drill team.[citation needed]

Prior to the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, Blair was an all-white school.[5] In 1955, the school began to integrate along with the rest of Montgomery County.[6] With Silver Spring's growth, the school's enrollment jumped from 600 students in 1946, to 1900 by 1956 and 2200 by 1993. In addition, the Science, Mathematics, and Computer Science Magnet program in the fall of 1985 brought 80 new students. The Communication Arts Program (CAP) followed in 1987, bringing 75 new students. Overcrowding remained as the main issue for Montgomery Blair High School, as portable buildings covered what was once open land. In 1994, it was decided that the school should relocate to an empty tract of land 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to the north. Construction began on the Kay Tract in the mid-nineties and the Four Corners Campus opened in the fall of 1998. After the move, Blair's Wayne Avenue campus converted into a combination Elementary/Middle School; currently Sligo Creek Elementary School and Silver Spring International Middle School each take up half the campus. The Elizabeth Stickley Auditorium, however, was not included in the conversion plans, and has remained closed since 1997. Nevertheless, the auditorium has received a significant amount of attention throughout the region as it has fallen into disrepair. Several local politicians and leaders, including former Maryland state senator Ida Ruben, current U.S. representative Jamie Raskin and former U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski, have endorsed projects to restore the auditorium to its former condition.[7]

The Blair Cupola and Steeple at the Four Corners Campus

Four Corners Campus Era (1998–present)

Montgomery Blair High School remained at the Wayne Avenue Campus for over six decades until its 1998 move to the current Four Corners Campus at the intersection of University Boulevard, Colesville Road, and the Capital Beltway. When it opened, the new facilities were the largest in the county, spanning a 42-acre (170,000 m2) region, which was nearly twice as large as the old Wayne Avenue site. During the early- to mid- 2000s, the school population spiked to its highest in history at approximately 3,400 students, rivaling that of some community colleges. Although enrollment has since receded to about 2,900 students, the school still has the largest student population in the county. The 2008 year marked a technological breakthrough for MBHS, as interactive digital Promethean boards were installed in many classrooms.

Notable events

In April 1992, Montgomery Blair High School was the first high school in the nation to initiate and sponsor a display of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.[8] More than 5,000 children, their families, teachers and friends came to see the Quilt.[9][10][11][12][13]

U.S. President George W. Bush and Blair alumnus Ben Stein ('62) attend a political event held at Blair.

It has been a popular stop for many politicians because of the school's diversity, strong academic programs, and proximity to the nation's capital. On February 5, 1998, President Bill Clinton and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair stopped at Montgomery Blair High School during a state visit.[14]

Montgomery Blair has welcomed other government officials in recent years, including United States Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge and Secretary of Education Rod Paige during a visit in 2003.[15] More recently, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez,[16] the parent of a Blair student, has visited to give a commencement address, as has Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss ocean conservation.[17]

On June 23, 2005, President George W. Bush visited the school to discuss his plan to partially privatize Social Security. Students were not permitted to attend. Bush's presence at the school drew approximately 400 protesters, who, despite the last-minute announcement of the visit, questioned both his proposed policies and the fact that this town hall-style meeting was not open to the general public. The demonstration included community members, students and union members. The police tried to move the demonstration to a park more than a block away, but protesters pointed out that there was no reason they couldn't continue their peaceful protest on the public sidewalk outside the fence around the school.[18][19]

During the 2010–2011 school year, NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spoke to a packed auditorium of students about his upcoming film and about his life and struggle to become the basketball player he became. Abdul-Jabbar then spoke privately with both the varsity and junior varsity basketball teams before posing for photos and signing a few autographs. Abdul-Jabbar left early and many students were disappointed as he walked past them and ignored their pleas for autographs.[citation needed]


Aerial photograph of Four Corners Campus

The current campus of Montgomery Blair High School covers forty-two acres between the Capital Beltway, U.S. Route 29, and Maryland Route 193 in Silver Spring's Four Corners neighborhood. The school contains 386,567 sq ft (35,913.2 m2) of space and was originally designed for 2,830 students.[20] Eight years after its completion, the school was more than 500 students over capacity, with a population of about 3,400. As a result, the school at one point had eight auxiliary portable classrooms. Population has decreased slightly due to the opening of other schools and the Downcounty Consortium, and as a result 2 portables were removed at the beginning of the 2006–2007 school year. As of April 2010, the enrollment at Blair is 2,788, and the portable classrooms have been removed. Blair remains the county's largest school.

A sundial was added to the school's main courtyard in March 2006

The school has baseball and softball fields to the east of the main building as well as Blazer Stadium which serves as the home of the school's football, soccer, and lacrosse teams. There are three courtyards located throughout the main building. A greenhouse and accompanying patio is located on the second floor on the west side of the main building for the use of horticulture classes. The school building contains a 750-seat auditorium. The main hallway of the school, 'Blair Boulevard" displays flags from many countries, representing its extremely diverse student body.

A panoramic of the MBHS Faculty Courtyard


In 2016, MBHS was ranked 22nd within Maryland and 528 nationally by U.S. News & World Report.[21] The school has an Honors Program and an Advanced Placement Program. The school is one of the few US high schools to have a .edu domain name, with its internet connection having gone live in the late 1980s.[22] MBHS is home to two separately-run student news publications: Silver Chips is the school's print newspaper that is self-funded, and Silver Chips Online is an exclusively online publication which received the National Scholastic Press Association Online Pacemaker Award in 2004, 2005 and 2006.[23][24][25] Blair is also home to Silver Quill, a literary arts magazine. Silver Quill is distributed with the school yearbook at the end of the school year.

Science, Mathematics, and Computer Science Magnet Program

In 1985, Montgomery County Public Schools opened its first Science, Mathematics, and Computer Science Magnet program at Blair.[26] The Magnet offers accelerated, interdisciplinary courses in science, mathematics, and computer science for students from the southern and eastern areas of Montgomery County, who are selected through a competitive application and testing process. (A program at Poolesville High School provides a similar curriculum for students in the northern and western areas of the county.)[27]

The Magnet offers dozens of courses, including in quantum physics, complex analysis, thermodynamics, discrete mathematics, marine biology, 3D computer graphics, artificial intelligence, the history of science, and organic chemistry.[28] Qualified students who are not in the program can and do enroll in its elective courses. In their senior year, Magnet students complete research projects to enter into the Science Talent Search, in which the program has a long history of success.[29] In 2017, the Magnet's mean SAT score was 2253.[30]

The Magnet is largely composed of hard working, high achieving students.[31][32] The Magnet was threatened with proposed budget cuts in 2008, but after student protests, it was spared from the most severe cuts.[33][34]

Communication Arts Program

The Communication Arts Program (CAP) at was established at Blair soon after the Magnet, in 1988.[35] It strives to provide a comprehensive educational approach to the humanities by offering accelerated, interdisciplinary courses in English, social studies, and media for participating students. CAP is open to students in the Downcounty Consortium and admission is competitive by application.[36]

CAP offers courses in drama, photography, video production, history, government, English literature, writing composition, journalism and research. The curriculum frequently builds off of existing Advanced Placement courses but uses the program's resources to add interdisciplinary experiences, such as a simulated presidential election that occurs over the course of a week at end of 10th grade, in which some students serve as candidates and others as campaign staff and reporters. CAP students also maintain porfolios of their work, which must include independent projects done outside of school. In 12th grade, they must successfully defend its contents to a faculty committee in order to complete the program.[37]

English Department

In addition to offering standard English courses, the English Department also offers AP courses in Language and Literature, as well as studies in dramatics, journalism, and theater.

Fine Arts Department

The Fine Arts Department consists of two sub-departments of Music and Visual Arts. The Music Department includes instrumental music, choral music, and general music. Each year the department hosts a fine arts festival, in which students showcase their artistic talent.

Instrumental Music Department

MBHS's Instrumental Music Department consists of three orchestras, three bands, and two jazz bands: Chamber Orchestra (Honors), Symphonic Orchestra, and Concert Orchestra; and Wind Ensemble (Honors), Symphonic Band, and Concert Band. The jazz ensembles are Advanced Jazz Ensemble (Honors), and Jazz Lab Band. In addition, the music program also contains a marching band and a theatrical pit orchestra, as well as an audio library and a professional recording studio.

In the Spring of 2014, MBHS's Chamber Orchestra hosted British Composer Paul Lewis as a Composer-in-Residence, receiving pay from the Wolftrap Foundation. Students played the world premier of a 5 movement long piece called "Salute the Silents".

Choral Music Department

The Choral Music Department consists of Chorus, Show Choir, Chamber Choir (Honors), a Cabaret, and InToneNation, an a cappella group.

General Music Department

The General Music Department offers studies in music history, technology, business, composition, and theory. There are also courses offered in solo and ensemble techniques for piano and guitar playing.

Visual Arts Department

MBHS's Visual Arts Department offers studies in art & culture, ceramics & sculpture, digital art, photography, and studio art.

Foreign Language Department

The Foreign Language Department offers classes up to AP-level in Spanish, French, and Latin, and up to honors-level in Japanese and Arabic. It has recently added American Sign Language (ASL), which offer classes up to ASL 3.

Mathematics Department

The Mathematics Department offers a variety of honors- and AP-level courses, including: Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra II, Precalculus, Calculus, Statistics, and Business Mathematics.

Science Department

The Science Department contains sub-departments in the core sciences of Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Earth Science.

Social Studies Department

MBHS's Social Studies Department offers honors and AP-level U.S. History, American Government and Politics, and World History, the department also offers elective courses such as African American History, Latin American History, European History, Middle East History, Comparative Government, Comparative religion, Cultural Anthropology, Administration of Justice, International Human Rights, Peace Studies Seminar, Economics, and Psychology.


The student athletics program currently offers 23 different varsity and 8 junior varsity sports, equating to 41 teams:

  • * indicates a sport for which there is also a junior varsity team.
  • ^ indicates a sport that is not officially sanctioned by the school and is thus considered a club team.

Student activities and traditions

MBHS has over 95 teams or clubs, some of which are entirely student-run, including the Blair Radio Station, "Blazer Pride" Marching Band, Debate Team, and Jewish Culture Club and Philosophy Club. Popular activities include: Knowledge Master Open, American Computer Science League, Envirothon, Science Bowl, Ocean Science Bowl, Doodle4Google, and Youth and Government.[38]

Computer team

Montgomery Blair's Computer Team specializes in advanced computer science topics and programming algorithms which extend the classroom curriculum. Upperclassmen students teach new and complex algorithms, data structures, and programming techniques, including Dijkstra's shortest-path algorithm, dynamic programming, and greedy algorithms. The team also delves into other miscellaneous theoretical computer science topics including turing machines, nondeterministic polynomial time, random number generation, assembly language, lambda calculus, and relational databases. The Computer Team participates in the (ACSL), Loyola Programming Contest, University of Maryland Programming Contest, and the USA Computing Olympiad (USACO). The Computer Team won the ACSL All-Star Competition Senior Division in 1991, 1993, 2001, 2003, 2009, 2011 and 2013.[39]

Robotics team

MBHS has an active FIRST Robotics Competition team, Team 449, nicknamed "The Blair Robot Project", inspired from the film The Blair Witch Project. The team was founded in 2000, and has competed in every year since except 2005.[40]


MBHS has a tournament known as Puzzlepalooza. The tournament first began in 2010 and has taken place each May ever since. During a four-day period, teams have 12 hours to complete multiple-leveled puzzles. This puzzles produce a phrase that will be used in the final puzzle, which is the main goal of Puzzlepalooza. Completing this final puzzle results in prizes for the team that solves it. There are also many other prizes available for the teams such as the Spirit Award or the Iron Puzzler Award.[41]

Science Bowl

MBHS has an active Science Bowl team, consistently doing well in the Maryland Science Bowl and winning the National Science Bowl in 1999 and 2016.[42]

Notable alumni

Blair has had many notable alumni in public service, the entertainment industry, sports, media, business, and academics.[43]

Politics and public service

Arts and entertainment

Sports and games

Journalism and media




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External links

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