School system sponsors two public sessions to discuss redistricting ideas

January 02, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

Parents can get a preview this week of school boundary issues likely to come up in this year's Howard County school redistricting discussions.

Meetings for parents will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Centennial High School for the northern and western regions, and at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Hammond High School for the northeastern, southeastern and Columbia areas.

The sessions mark the start of a process that in past years has resulted in highly charged battles over the transfer of students to different schools.

School officials are expected to give the board a redistricting proposal Jan. 27, with public hearings and work sessions scheduled for March.

The board will make the boundary adjustments at its March 24 meeting.

At this week's meetings, Associate Superintendent Maurice Kalin will walk parents through the redistricting process and discuss enrollment projections and redistricting possibilities and alternatives.

Mr. Kalin declined last week to discuss in advance which schools and areas may be affected this year, saying he would rather give out information "in a controlled environment."

School officials redistrict to balance enrollment between schools that are crowded or under capacity.

About 34,300 students are enrolled in county schools this year, up from about 33,000 last year.

School officials expect enrollment to increase by 1,500 students a year for the next 10 years, during which time they plan to build or renovate about 15 schools at a total cost of more than $300 million.

The county's growing student population has forced school officials to look at alternatives to new construction, including year-round education, double shifts and private leasing of schools.

One issue likely to come up this year is the school board's tentative decision to redistrict Centennial students to Wilde Lake and River Hill high schools.

The board decided last year to redistrict students in the Beaverbrook, Hobbit's Glen and Longfellow neighborhoods to Wilde Lake High School in the fall of 1994 to ease crowding.

It also decided to move students in the Dorsey Hall neighborhood to the new River Hill High School, still under construction. That move would take place in the 1996 school year.

"Although we took action last year, it was on a planning basis and we will have to revisit it," said Dana Hanna, school board chairman.

"It's a pretty good assumption [last year's decisions] will pan out, but I wouldn't stake my life on that," he said.

A sticking point last year was the sketchily defined plan to start a technology magnet program at the River Hill school and the new eastern high school, also still under construction.

Dorsey Hall parents had urged that the program be based at River Hill, hoping that school officials would then build an addition to Centennial and avoid transferring Dorsey Hall students.

Mr. Hanna said he expects school officials to have an implementation plan for the technology education program by February.

"By the time the board is dealing with the [redistricting] issue, we would have a better grasp on technology education," he said.

Mr. Hanna calls this year's redistricting a curtain-raiser to next year's process, which involves countywide redistricting at the high school level to prepare for the opening of the two new high schools in fall 1996.

He urged anybody "who could remotely, possibly, in their wildest dreams be involved" in the redistricting process to take part.

"Don't assume you can't be involved," he said.

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