Redistricting plans upset some parents

February 20, 1994|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Sun Staff Writer

Some Bel Air area parents are angry over the redistricting proposal for the 600-student Emmorton Elementary School, which is expected to open in the fall.

Opponents say the redistricting plan is unfair because it would force their elementary-age children to switch schools for the third time.

Other parents say the proposal will force their children to travel too far over some of the county's most congested roads.

The school board, which heard the committee's proposal at a meeting Monday night, will hold a public forum on the redistricting plan at 7 p.m. March 2 at Homestead Elementary School in Bel Air.

The committee's proposal for Emmorton Elementary, near the Harford Glen Environmental Education Center on South Wheel Road, would transfer about 400 students from Ring Factory and 103 from Homestead/Wakefield.

Sharon Tselepis, president of the Broadview Community Association, said that transferring 130 students from her community to Emmorton will be unfair because it will be the third elementary school many of the community's children have attended.

"First our children were William S. James Jaguars, and now they are Ring Factory Foxes, and next year they will be Emmorton whatevers, and the year after that they will probably be something else in another school," she said, referring to the school's mascots.

Mrs. Tselepis, whose daughter Robin is now at Bel Air Middle School, said redistricting to a third school also is unfair to the parents.

"Ring Factory opened without books in the library, without playground equipment and with few computers," she said. "We held fund-raisers to make the money to buy those things for our children, and now you are asking us to go to another new school and do the same thing all over again. That's not fair."

David W. Cooper, president of the redistricting committee, said he understand's parents concerns. "We are talking about a task [redistricting] that is never a pretty one and will never please everyone," he said.

His daughter Kimberly, a fourth-grader at Ring Factory, will attend Emmorton if the committee's plan is accepted. She went to Homestead/Wakefield for kindergarten, Mr. Cooper said.

"I'm not totally excited about my child being redistricted three times, but I don't see any other option," said Mr. Cooper, who lives in Cedar Springs in Bel Air.

He said the Bel Air area's population is growing so quickly that new schools are desperately needed to relieve overcrowding.

Ring Factory, at 1400 Emmorton Road, is over capacity by 43 percent with 841 students in a school designed to hold 588.

The school has nine portable classrooms. Homestead/Wakefield, a two-building school at 900 S. Main St., is 27 percent overcrowded with 1,190 students and a capacity of 940.

The 28 members of the Emmorton redistricting committee, which was overseen by Barbara Wheeler, the supervisor of elementary education, were selected at random from a pool of volunteers.

And that is where the problems began, some opponents of the plan say.

Dr. J. Douglas Abbott, who lives in Open Acres Manor, southwest of Bel Air, said people living in the area were not represented on the committee.

He said none of the families in his area were notified they would be part of the redistricting proposal until three weeks after the committee's final meeting in December.

He presented the school board with 210 signatures of people opposed to moving students from Homestead/Wakefield to Emmorton.

Dr. Abbott said members of his community had many concerns, particularly safety.

He said students from his community would have to travel Route 24, which is heavily congested. He said other roads that are less heavily traveled are too narrow for school buses.

Generally speaking, students who live south of Bel Air will be involved in the redistricting.

The following communities would be included in the plan:

Broadview, Overview Manor, Singer Woods, Laurel Woods, Preston Manor, Country Walk, Bel Air South, Valley View, Plumtree Estates, Cedar Spring, Calvert Walk, Camelot, Lakeside Vista, Mountain View, Brierwood, Joppa Hills, Open Acres Manor, Twin Brook Estates, Woodridge Manor and Millwood.

Also, students who live between Laurel Bush Road and Route 924, bounded by Wheel Road and St. Mary's Church Road, and students who live on Tollgate Road, bounded by Ring Factory Road and Plumtree Road, would go to the new school.

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