Seven Oaks group fights to keep schools' diversity

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

Worried that a redistricting plan proposed by the Anne Arundel Board of Education would lower minority enrollment at West County schools, residents of Seven Oaks have come up with their own alternatives to relieve overcrowding.

"When we talked to the school board staff, when we started showing them the racial statistics, we were told they hadn't realized how racially balanced this community is. Odenton Elementary School has more than doubled its minority enrollment since 1989," said Zoe Draughon, chairwoman of the Seven Oaks Community Relations Committee.

"We're the most racially balanced community in the county. We give something more than just tax dollars to Odenton Elementary," she said. "Any time you give that much diversity of culture, you are enhancing the community."

The school board's proposal, which will be discussed at Wednesday's 10:30 a.m. board meeting, would have children from the Seven Oaks development attend Meade Heights Elementary instead of Odenton Elementary. Those children would eventually attend Meade High School instead of Arundel High.

But the board's plan also would result in having more than 2,000 students at MacArthur Middle School if the sixth-graders are added to the school in 1995 as planned.

"They're planning to have the middle school be on split sessions," said Ms. Draughon. "That's going to mean having 12-year-olds unsupervised in the afternoon. It's going to mess up before- and after-day care arrangements, and rely on a 14-year-olds to get themselves up and go to school. This is putting an undue burden on families."

She also said such a plan could discourage parental participation in schools.

"If this plan goes through, I'll have a child in Arundel High and a child in the Meade feeder system. Do I support Arundel PTA and Citizens Area Council, or Meade's, or do I clone myself and do both?" asked Ms. Draughon.

The Seven Oaks Community Relations Committee took another look at the school board's enrollment projections and came up with two alternatives.

The first proposal calls for moving entire elementary schools into different feeder systems, instead of moving communities into new school districts piecemeal, as redistricting is usually done.

Under the committee's plan, some elementary schools would become part of the South River High School feeder system until West County High School is built. The earliest that school could be completed is 1997, and budget problems have created speculation that the project will have to be delayed.

That plan takes advantage of the school board's announced intentions to build a middle school in the Crofton area. Once that school is built, students who attend the new middle school -- which will draw from Crofton, Millersville and Southshore elementaries -- would attend Arundel High.

Students from Crofton Woods and Crofton Meadows elementaries would later attend the old Crofton Middle School, and then move on to South River High -- until the new West County High is built and they could return to Arundel High.

"This is an interim plan, but it will keep them from jerking the kids around every two or three years," said Ms. Draughon. "This takes all the kids that go to elementary school and keeps them #F together, puts them in middle school together. We tried to move the children in such a way it would be the least traumatic for them."

The second alternative calls for moving Severn Elementary from the Old Mill High feeder system to the Meade High feeder system. Crofton Woods and Crofton Meadows elementaries and Crofton Middle School would be moved from the Arundel feeder system to the South River feeder system, as in the first plan.

The second proposal calls for students from Crofton Elementary to attend Arundel Middle School instead of Crofton Middle. It would also switch Ridgeway Elementary from the Old Mill feeder system to the Arundel feeder system and move Quarterfield Elementary into the Old Mill feeder system.

"If the school board creates this monster in MacArthur Middle, they'll have to deal with it fast," said Ms. Draughon. "Our plan gives them time to build a new middle school. They've got to start projecting for the future. We've got to stop using Band-Aids."

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