High school redistricting opposed by some parents Other changes have few foes

March 07, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,ROBERT CRONAN/STAFF GRAPHICStaff Writer

Talk of school boundary line changes has raised a ruckus in Howard County, where school officials are planning to shuffle several hundred students to accommodate the county's growth.

School officials plan to transfer about 250 elementary school students from three districts to fill a new elementary school in Elkridge, scheduled to open next school year. They also plan to move about 500 middle school students to ease crowding and to fill a new middle school in Marriottsville, also scheduled to open next school year.

While these two proposals have not been met by much resistance, the proposal to shift high school boundary lines has. Parents in the Longfellow, Hobbit's Glen and Beaverbrook neighborhoods, which have been recommended to shift from Centennial High School to Wilde Lake High School in 1994, are arguing that the move would hurt their children's education. They cite Wilde Lake's lower test scores as a main factor.

Parents in the Dorsey Hall neighborhood -- recommended to shift to the new western high school in 1996 -- say they shouldn't be redistricted to Wilde Lake because they aren't in Wilde Lake's school feeder system. They say their kids attend Northfield elementary and Dunloggin middle, schools that have never been in Wilde Lake's district.

"This is our community, and we want to stay within our community school feeder system," says Jane Jeffries, chairman of the Dorsey Hall Redistricting Committee.

The two communities are expected to turn out in large numbers to testify at this week's two Board of Education hearings on redistricting. More than 130 parents have signed up to speak, and close to half of them will be discussing high school redistricting.

The hearings are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at Howard High School.

What follows is a list of questions that parents commonly ask about the process.

Why are the schools drawing new boundary lines?

Redistricting results from crowding, according to Associate Superintendent Maurice Kalin, in charge of redistricting for 17 years. Redistricting is necessary to accommodate new students and to equalize student populations.

An additional 11,000 students -- or an average of 1,500 students a year -- are expected to attend Howard County schools by the year 1999. Elementary schools will grow by about 33 percent, middle schools by 42 percent and high schools by close to 50 percent.

Major redistricting on the high school level is planned for 1996, when two new schools open.

Why doesn't the school system just add on to existing schools?

The school system sometimes does, but the board has capped enrollment at schools so they can remain competitive with one another. High schools are supposed to have no more than 1,400 students; middle schools, 662 students; and elementary schools, students.

Sometimes, additions are so extensive that schools may have to close for work to progress. Wilde Lake High School will close in 1994 for two years as about $20 million in renovations begin.

Even with two new high schools scheduled to open in 1996, Mr. Kalin said the school system will be short 1,300 places for students. Last week, he proposed to build additions at either Atholton or Centennial high schools.

Isn't Howard County building new schools to make room for the new students?

School officials say they plan to open at least two new schools a year until 1999. In school year 1996, four schools will open, including two $30 million high schools in the western and eastern parts of the county. The schools are expected to relieve crowding at Centennial, Mount Hebron and Howard.

On the middle school level, Mount View is finishing construction this year and will open next school year to relieve crowding at Glenwood and Patapsco. School officials predict Mount View will be crowded in 1997 and say they will have to redistrict Turf Valley, Pine Orchard and Bethany Manor neighborhoods.

Scheduled to open in school year 1994 is a northern elementary school; 1995, a northeastern middle school; in 1996, two new high schools and a western and northeastern elementary school; and in 1997, a southeastern elementary and middle school. Ten elementary and middle schools are expected to be built by 2002.

Locations for many of the proposed schools have not been found, and any construction is subject to the state's and county's ability to fund them.

Are there other changes?

Some schools will get relocatables -- or portable classrooms -- to accommodate students and others will have them removed. Mount Hebron High School is slated to receive two more relocatables for a total of four next school year. Centennial High School will receive four more for a total of eight next school year.

On the elementary school level, St. John's Lane is expected to get two more portables next year, and Deep Run is expected to give up two.

What factors are being considered in redistricting?

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