Schools Redistricting Hearing Draws Sparse Crowd

Board Discusses Three Options For Elementaries

January 22, 1992|By Greg Tasker

WESTMINSTER — Shuffle students and parents protest.

Well, almost. That adage, if it is one, didn't necessarily prove true last night when the schoolboard held its first public hearing on a redistricting plan that could affect students at four Carroll elementary schools.

The crowd, about 60, at William Winchester Elementary was smallerthan expected. School staff, realizing redistricting can be a "highly emotional issue," expected at least 100 people and had placed about200 folding chairs in the school's gymnasium.

William Winchester, like two of the other schools, will be affected to varying degrees under each of the three redistricting options before the five-member board.

Redrawing boundary lines, school officials said, is necessaryto balance enrollment at three Westminster grade schools and the newFriendship Valley Elementary School, set to open this fall on Gist Road off Kate Wagner Road.

Students at William Winchester, Robert Moton and Westminster elementary schools will be affected by the redistricting.

In addition, children at Freedom Elementary in Sykesville could be moved under one of the plans.

More student shuffling would occur under options known as A and B, said school officials.

Under those options, students from Sullivan Heights, who now attend Westminster Elementary, and pupils in Cranberry Hills, who now attend Robert Moton, would be transferred to William Winchester.

Students who live in the upper end of Gorsuch Road would be transferred from William Winchester to Robert Moton Elementary.

"There's a lot of juggling under those options," said Kathleen Sanner, an assistant in the school support facilities office. "There's some very controversial proposals here."

Even so, there appeared to be few objections at the hearing last night. There were more questions than comments from the audience, which included school administrative staff, principals and teachers.

After listening to a staff presentation on the redistricting proposals, Wayne L. Dorsey, of 1000 block of Old Manchester Road, surmised school officials were placing an option known as C on the back burner because of concerns about using portable classrooms ata new school.

Vernon F. Smith Jr., director of school support facilities, conceded opening a new school with 572 students, just 28 under the school's project capacity, was a deterrent for educators. But,he noted that given the planned residential development near the school, portables will become necessary at Friendship Valley soon.

During the first 75 minutes of the public meeting, only one woman objected to plans A and B. She said she preferred C because it didn't transfer students from one existing school to another. All students affected by the redistricting would go to the new school.

Smith said from 530 to 572 students would be shuffled in the redistricting process. In redrawing lines, school staff was working with a student enrollment of 2,285 in the three Westminster schools.

School officials estimate that when Friendship Valley opens in September, there will be fewer than 130 vacant seats among the four schools.

Public hearings on the plans will continue this month at the other schools. The next hearing is 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at Freedom Elementary.

The school staff will recommend one of the plans to the board next month.

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