Annapolis city officials want a say in redistricting of county schools

March 29, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

For the first time, Annapolis officials are planning to intervene in the school redistricting process.

At issue is whether students should be bused past neighborhood schools to achieve racial balance, or whether they should attend the school nearest their homes -- even if that means the schools are not as racially diverse.

City Council members plan to meet with the Board of Education Wednesday about Superintendent C. Berry Carter II's plan to redraw the school attendance boundaries of nine elementary, two middle and the single high school in the Annapolis area.

The plan would relocate 865 students to their neighborhood schools and reduce transportation costs. But under the plan, the minority populations at three elementary schools would drop significantly.

"Historically, the city had no involvement with schools because it was a county function," said Alderman Carl O. Snowden, a Ward 5 Democrat. "What we want is to have formal input into redistricting because of some community concerns. We've never done this before."

Mr. Snowden said some aldermen can remember the days of "separate but equal" when black schools did not receive the same benefits as white schools.

And other alderman, none too happy with Mr. Carter's plan, believe it's time to take on a more activist role.

"Some schools are already overcrowded, and the plan the superintendent has drawn up would make it even worse," said Alderman Dean Johnson, a Ward 2 Independent. "One of the schools in my ward [Germantown Elementary] has four portable classrooms, and one on order. Adding 75 new students next year would mean two or three more."

Mr. Johnson said some residents in his ward also want to see the former Adams Park Elementary -- now the countywide Learning Center, for children with emotional or behavioral problems -- used as an elementary school again.

He also has proposed that one wing of Annapolis Middle School, which has housed elementary students during the renovations of Eastport and Parole elementaries, be used permanently as an elementary school.

Mr. Carter's original plan would go into effect in 1995 if approved by the school board. Under it, students from Parole, Germantown, West Annapolis and Annapolis elementary schools would attend Bates Middle School.

Children from Rolling Knolls, Tyler Heights, Georgetown East, Eastport and Hillsmere elementaries would attend Annapolis Middle School.

In addition, there would be changes in the elementary attendance districts. For example, students who live in Woodside Gardens now attending Annapolis Elementary will be reassigned to Parole Elementary under the proposal, as will students from the Heritage community who attend Germantown Elementary.

Also attending Parole Elementary will be students in the Bywater community who attend Edgewater and Rolling Knolls.

Students from Harness Creek, Hunt Meadows and Gentry who now attend Parole would be reassigned to Tyler Heights Elementary.

Some parents have objected to these and other elementary transfers outlined in Mr. Carter's plan.

"Residents of the Heritage community in my ward have a sense of community being aligned with Germantown, and don't want their children to go to Parole," said Alderwoman Ruth Gray, a Ward 4 Republican.

"In this case it's not a racial issue, it's a community issue and safety issue, because it's not safe for those students to walk to Parole Elementary from their homes -- there are no sidewalks," she said. "And what bothers me the most is that if the driving force of this plan is to decrease the Germantown student population, this plan doesn't."

Ronald L. Beckett, assistant to the superintendent for support services, says staff members met Thursday to discuss the possibility of changing their original recommendation to Mr. Carter.

"The Board of Education really does listen to what the community desires are," said Mr. Beckett.

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