School redistricting report due tonight

May 18, 1994|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

Volunteers on the school board committee that is probably most feared by parents will deliver a progress report tonight on its plan to redraw school attendance boundaries throughout the county.

"It may well be that their neighbors won't appreciate them when this is over," said Thomas Rhoades, director of management information services, who is the liaison between the Board of Education and the 12 volunteers on the redistricting committee. "It's tough for the community because you're dealing with people and their kids, and most people's biggest financial investment is their home.

"So automatically you're dealing with areas that engender intense feelings."

Bill Church, chairman of the redistricting committee, agrees.

"Parents shouldn't worry, though. We're not going to suddenly announce a plan" tonight, Mr. Church said. "And we hope to have provisions for the public to have input before we draw up a plan. They'll have a chance to respond in writing and to attend some public meetings."

The committee will make its report when the school board meets at 7:30 p.m. at the Board of Education headquarters on Riva Road.

The eight-member school board decided to appoint the committee to prevent dealing with classroom overcrowding on a piecemeal basis.

Mr. Rhoades said there are two areas that present the most serious overcrowding problems: the Northeast High School feeder schools, where portables abound at George Fox Middle, and Jacobsville and Highpoint elementaries; and West County, where Crofton has experienced rapid growth.

"Building after building in the next year or so will be overcrowded," Mr. Rhoades said.

So far, the redistricting committee has been gathering information on school capacities, enrollment and school construction schedules.

The committee is expected to finish the draft of its plan by October and submit it to the school board in November.

By law, the school board must choose a redistricting plan in January, hold public hearings and adopt a plan in April. Redistricting would take effect in September 1995.

"The No. 1, bottom line task is absolutely, positively to maximize the effective utilization of space," Mr. Church said. "But we also have to look at alternatives, such as alternate schedules, school construction, and how you use existing space."

The committee has asked, for example, how schoolrooms are used during a teacher's planning period.

"Our charter is not solely to move one boundary six streets south and two streets west," Mr. Church said. "We're all aware that this is an issue that people care a great deal about. I have two children, and the other committee members have children, so we understand. But this is a necessary task."

The last time the entire school system was redistricted was more than 20 years ago, he said.

"I'm not trying to be naive or Pollyanna-ish," said Mr. Church. "But I think there's an up side to all this. We might actually arrange things so that it's better."

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