Reaction is mixed on redistricting

March 27, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Sun Staff Writer

Howard County school board member Deborah Kendig missed last year's redistricting vote because she was recovering from surgery.

She made up for her absence Thursday night, voting to send students from the Dorsey Hall neighborhood to Wilde Lake High School this fall and chastising Dorsey Hall parents for submitting a proposal that would have kept their children at Centennial High School.

"In an attempt to not move kids needlessly, we let Wilde Lake's enrollment drop precipitously," she said, referring to the situation of the past several years. "Perhaps we erred on the side of caution and conservatism. We certainly have not moved kids willy-nilly."

Her strongly worded speech, which got a round of applause from some parents, was not lost on the small group of Dorsey Hall parents who gathered outside the board room after the meeting. They felt they had been bullied.

"That shows very poor judgment on the part of the leaders," said Dorsey Hall parent Bob Kaufman.

Ms. Kendig said later that the meeting was the only forum she had to respond publicly to Dorsey Hall's criticisms in The Sun of the way school officials have handled redistricting.

"If it's OK for citizens to attack my integrity in a public newspaper, I think it's perfectly acceptable to respond in a public meeting," she said. "I certainly don't think I attacked them. I think I was making a defense for the position I was taking, which was for the benefit of the whole county."

Last week's vote to shift roughly 400 students in the Dorsey Hall, Beaverbrook, Longfellow and Hobbit's Glen neighborhoods to Wilde Lake marked the end of a wearying, two-year redistricting process. Several parents were glad to see it end.

Beaverbrook parent Marianne Hollerbach said she was excited to send her children to Wilde Lake.

The Wilde Lake building will be torn down this summer to make way for a new, $20 million school on Trumpeter Road that will open in 1996, and the Wilde Lake school will move to the building in Clarksville that will eventually become River Hill High School. That building is scheduled for completion this fall.

"I think Wilde Lake is going to be a great school," said Mrs. Hollerbach. "I look forward to my children going there."

The board gave some relief to Hammond Middle School by redistricting students who live north of Interstate 95 to Patuxent Valley Middle School. Hammond's PTA president, Michel Gledhill, was happy the board helped alleviate crowding.

"Although we would have liked to have been able to have an alternative that would not redistrict any of our children, considering we would have been incredibly overcrowded, this will help our situation," she said.

But the board's actions did not please all parents. Valerie Linaburg, PTA president at St. John's Lane Elementary School, said the board's vote to place portable classrooms at the crowded school rather than shift some students was "terrible. . . . It won't give our kids any relief."

"My concern is the morale at the school," said Ms. Linaburg, who said the school board led parents to believe they would get some relief from their school's crowding problems through redistricting.

To reduce crowding at St. John's Lane, 65 of 72 parents who live in the Valley Mede, Greenway Drive and Enchanted Forest areas supported sending their children to Manor Woods Elementary School, still under construction and expected to open this fall. But board members rejected that idea, saying the com

munity was divided over the transfer of students to Manor Woods.

Had the board approved the transfer, those students would have had to be moved a second time when a new elementary school opens in the northeast region in 1997.

Parents in the Town & Country Boulevard and Wilton Acres neighborhoods, meanwhile, were glad the board decided against shifting their children out of St. John's Lane. "We are thrilled that our children are going to remain at St. John's Lane, where they are thriving and receiving a wonderful education," said parent Anne Lukiewski. "We . . . want to publicly thank the members of the school board for their compassionate and fair decision."

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