With the opening of long-awaited new schools on the horizon, Carroll school officials this week will begin wrestling with the sometimes unpopular process of redistricting.
Spring Garden Elementary is the first school on tap, and school officials will conduct community meetings at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Hampstead Elementary and at 7 p.m. Thursday at Manchester Elementary to discuss four redistricting options.
The $5.4 million school, slated to open next September, will have a capacity to house 600 students. Its opening should ease the enrollment strain in the northeastern part of the county and reduce the heavy dependence on portables, Carroll administrators have said.
Although keeping the current attendance areas for each school would be a simple alternative, school officials said a better choice would be transferring some students to Spring Garden, which is situated off Boxwood Drive in Hampstead.
Without redrawing attendance areas, Spring Garden would open slightly below capacity, school officials said.
Ideally, each school should have 600 pupils. Hampstead's enrollment this year climbed to 934, while Manchester's reached 942. Both schools have several portables in use this year.
Several options are currently under consideration.
* Option A would divide the Hampstead Elementary attendance area in half and transfer 96 students from Manchester Elementary to Hampstead. School officials said this plan would limit the number of students removed from Manchester, while still providing some relief for the overcrowded school.
It also would provide for some growth in the Roberts Field and Coon Club Road areas.
* Option B would leave Manchester Elementary's boundaries intact and would divide Hampstead Elementary, balancing the enrollment between Hampstead and Spring Garden. It would not provide relief for Manchester, leaving the school "severely overcrowded," school officials said.
* Option C would balance enrollment between all three schools. This plan would remove 182 pupils from Manchester Elementary, bringing the school as close as possible to its capacity. Hampstead and Spring Garden elementaries would use Hampstead's Main Street as a boundary, and their enrollments would be matched as closely as possible to their capacities. This plan also would allow for some growth at those schools.
* Option D would be similar to the previous option but would not remove any children from the Manchester attendance area who currently live within Manchester town limits. Additional children, however, would be added to the Hampstead attendance area from the Alesia area to balance enrollments. The plan would remove 176 Manchester students from that attendance area.
Although the options have been presented to the Board of Education, its members have chosen not to discuss the proposals until the public has made comments. Maps of the proposed attendance areas and other materials will be available at the meetings.
Administrators have said they expect less resistance to changes in the attendance boundaries in the growing northeastern end of the county because the schools are so overcrowded.
Even so, Superintendent R. Edward Shilling said, school officials and board members would like public input before making a decision.
The board is expected to take action on the redistricting proposals in January.