Group wants to start over on school rezoning

February 07, 1993|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

A committee formed to draw new boundaries for six northeastern Harford elementary schools wants to chuck most of its proposal and start over.

"What we have now is not going to fly. Let's get everyone together and come up with another proposal," said Beth Oleszczuk, co-chairwoman of the committee.

The 26-member advisory committee, which includes school administrators, teachers and parents, worked for more than two months to develop a proposal presented to the school board in January and to the public last Tuesday night at William Paca/Old Post Road.

Shifting students to Church Creek Elementary in Belcamp, scheduled to open in the fall, has been relatively straightforward, Mrs. Oleszczuk said.

The stumbling block has been what to do with 110 pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students who belong at Bakerfield Elementary in Aberdeen but go to school at Halls Cross Roads in Abingdon. The 1986 move of the students was supposed to be temporary, to ease crowding at Bakerfield.

The school system wants to move the students back to Bakerfield, but Bakerfield parents say that's impractical because the school is already crowded.

"This situation is a real hard one for us. It would be nice if these kids could come back to Bakerfield but the price is too high. We need fewer kids not more," said Lynn Drysdale, president of the Bakerfield PTA and a member of the redistricting committee.

She said the school is so crowded that music teachers are forced to conduct classes in the cafeteria or on the gymnasium stage. The computer lab is in what used to be a storage closet, and the library is sometimes used to hold three or four small classes at once.

Mrs. Drysdale was one of about a dozen speakers who argued against the committee's proposal at the Tuesday night meeting.

Redistricting is necessary because Church Creek Elementary is scheduled to open in the fall. That means redrawing the boundaries for six elementary schools in northeastern Harford: Bakerfield, Hillsdale and Hall's Cross Roads in Aberdeen, Churchville Elementary in Churchville, Riverside Elementary in Joppa and William Paca/Old Post Road in Abingdon. About 3,500 students attend those schools.

The committee's proposal had the support of most of the 26 committee members. It also met four goals mandated by the school system. The first three were easy -- relieving crowding at Riverside and Hillsdale Elementaries and creating an attendance area for Church Creek. Only the Bakerfield kindergartners presented a problem.

So far, three proposals, in addition to the committee's report, have surfaced. The school board is expected to decide on the new boundaries at its March meeting.

Parents from Bakerfield, including members of the redistricting committee, sent an alternative proposal to the school board in January. At the Tuesday night meeting, some of the same people came up with yet another idea.

Mrs. Drysdale, at Bakerfield, helped develop the two counterproposals. She supports the most recent proposal, which would merge Bakerfield with Hall's Cross Roads. Pre-kindergarten to second grade students would go to Hall's Cross Roads. Students in third, fourth and fifth grades would attend Bakerfield.

Two-building elementary schools, with lower grades in one building and higher grades in another, are not unusual. William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary, Youth's Benefit in Fallston and Homestead/Wakefield in Bel Air are two-building schools.

The third proposal was developed by Pamela Price, a member of the redistricting committee and a parent of students at William Paca/Old Post Road. She thinks entire neighborhoods, such as Windemere, could be transferred from Bakerfield to Hall's Cross Roads.

"It depends on the number of students, but 70 to 100 would alleviate overcrowding at Bakerfield," she said. And students would be moving in large groups to a school they attended as kindergartners.

David Shetterly, co-chair of the committee and a parent at Hillsdale Elementary, said: "We made many attempts to move 100 to 110 children out of Bakerfield but we couldn't find a solution that made Bakerfield parents happy at all. Most of our time was spent haggling over Bakerfield," he said at the Tuesday night meeting.

Mrs. Oleszczuk, the committee co-chairwoman, said the two new proposals have merit.

"Bakerfield has too little space, they need a computer room and a music room for starters. Hall's Cross Roads has too much room," she said.

Mrs. Drysdale, the Bakerfield parent, wants the crowding at Bakerfield treated separately from the redistricting.

"We need a long-term solution that takes into consideration the growth Aberdeen is experiencing or we will be going through this [redistricting] all over again in another two or three years," she said.

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