A proposal by Baltimore County school officials to move more than 700 students from the Perry Hall area to different middle and high schools over the next four years immediately ran into heated opposition from parents yesterday.
The administration proposal, which still must be discussed in public hearings and voted on by the Board of Education, was presented at a school board committee meeting attended by about 60 irate parents.
The proposed high school boundary changes, drafted to alleviate overcrowding, call for sending 518 students who would otherwise attend Perry Hall High School to Parkville, Chesapeake and Kenwood high schools. Another 258 students would move from Perry Hall Middle School to Pine Grove Middle.
The changes would be phased in over three or four years so that no students currently attending Perry Hall middle or high school would have to move. If approved, the changes would begin to go into effect next September.
A group of mostly white parents who live in the western section of Perry Hall south of Gunpowder Falls State Park were upset to learn that officials want to change boundaries in their neighborhood instead of those in a primarily African-American community on the east side.
The school system did not want to remove the students from the African-American community, in the southeastern section of Perry Hall, because it would reduce racial diversity at Perry Hall High, said James E. Kraft, director of the school's planning department.
"By removing that area, we would remove two-thirds of the minority population in Perry Hall High School," Mr. Kraft told board members. About 16 percent of Perry Hall's students are of minority races.
Carolyn Yeager, a parent-activist who lives in the western section of Perry Hall, was almost in tears after the meeting.
"I think it stinks," she said. "I don't think this minority business is fair. I don't think they should keep the black kids in there when our community is closer to the school."
Before the meeting, Mrs. Yeager spoke more of the concerns she felt about not being a part of the Perry Hall school community. "When you live in a community, you work for that community," she said. "It is breaking up the community."
Although her children are young enough that they won't be affected for at least four years, the idea still weighs heavily on her.
"Although it affects me somewhere down the line," Mrs. Yeager said, "I can't do anything but think about it now."
Diana Chetelat, who lives in the western part of Perry Hall and has
one child in elementary school and another in middle school, is upset that race has become an issue.
"[The school system] is making it a racial issue," Mrs. Chetelat, who volunteers at her children's schools, said. "I'm a Hispanic. My rights are not being taken into account."
Ms. Chetelat, who fears that the proposed guidelines are not in the best interest of her children, wants the school board to consider other options. If the changes go through, Mrs. Chetelat will have her two children in middle school next year, but in different schools.
"One will be in one middle school, and one has to go to another," she said. "We are an integral part of the Perry Hall community."
The next meeting on the proposed boundary changes is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 17 at Perry Hall High School. In January or February, public hearings will be scheduled. The board is not expected to take final action until Feb. 21.