Groups of Harford County parents opposed to their children being redistricted into Emmorton Elementary argued bitterly among themselves last night at a school board hearing on the proposal.
The angry parents, about 300 in all, wore ribbons or red hearts or carried signs that identified their neighborhoods. During the meeting at Ring Factory Elementary, the standing-room-only crowd cheered speakers they agreed with and jeered those with whom they differed.
At issue is a redistricting proposal that would transfer some Bel Air area students to Emmorton from two of the county's most crowded schools: Ring Factory, which is 43 percent over capacity, and Homestead/Wakefield Elementary, which is 27 percent over capacity.
The redistricting proposal was unveiled in December by a committee of parents, teachers and administrators approved by the school system.
Most of the opposing factions use the same reasons to protest the move to Emmorton.
Parents say that their children have already attended two elementary schools and should not be moved again, and that they have spent a great deal of money for the schools' libraries and on fund-raisers to benefit the schools.
The parents also say that busing their children to Emmorton is dangerous because the buses will cross two congested roads -- Routes 924 and 24 -- to get to Emmorton, at Wheel and Tollgate roads.
And, parents say, there are no traffic lights where Wheel Road intersects with 924 and 24.
School board members, who declined to say how they will vote, will decide the issue at 7 p.m. April 18 at Southampton Middle School in Bel Air. Last night was the final chance for public comment from the more than 30 neighborhoods that could be affected.
Emmorton, a 600-student building under construction near Harford Glen Environmental Center in Abingdon, is scheduled to open Sept. 7.
Jeff Lersch, who lives in Hunter's Run, wants his children to remain at Ring Factory. He asked the board to decide where Emmorton children will go to middle and high school.
"I'm asking you to state on the record whether children from Emmorton would attend Edgewood or Bel Air schools," he said.
Percy Williams, president of the school board, did not answer the question but said that "all Harford County schools are good."
Many parents in the crowd were not pleased and shouted repeatedly, "Answer the question!"
"We paid to live in Bel Air to go to Bel Air schools," said Carl Carlson, president of Hunter's Run Homeowners Association.
After the meeting, Mr. Lersch said he did not want his children to attend Edgewood schools because he feared property values would decline.
"This redistricting fight has less to do with quality of education and more to do with the value of our homes," he said.