Concerns about school redistricting aired at first of four forums

June 03, 1994|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

Ashley Davis is worried that when she starts the eighth grade at Southern Middle School next year, she won't eat lunch until nearly 1 p.m. -- the fourth lunch shift of the day.

"We had so many sixth-graders this year, we added an extra lunch," Ashley told the 12 people who will be redrawing school boundaries between now and November. "A lot of eighth-graders will get D lunch next year, and they don't want to eat that late."

She was among 14 who spoke out at a public forum last night at Annapolis High School -- the first of four such forums this month sponsored by the Countywide Redistricting Committee. The next meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Monday at North County High School.

Only about 30 people attended last night's meeting. Some parents attributed the sparse attendance to a lack of publicity, or late notification.

But Bill Church, the committee's chairman, said it may just be too early for parents to be interested in redistricting because there's no plan yet.

"Don't ask 'How will this affect my school?' The answer is we don't know yet," Mr. Church told parents and students. "I can tell you that this committee will present one plan to the school board in November. These forums are your chance to tell us what you think before we begin."

Those who were there took advantage of that opportunity.

Shelly Shaplin, of the Eastport Elementary Citizens Advisory Council, said she wanted the committee to reconsider redistricting lines drawn last year that would affect key programs for latch-key students at Eastport. That plan calls for 75 more students to attend the school, and means rooms now used for before-and after-school day care and Chapter One students would be pressed into use as regular classrooms.

"That plan would add 75 students to Eastport's enrollment. How does that help overcrowding? In the meantime, there are 10 students from Watergate Village who will be transferred to another school," Ms. Shaplin said.

"Why put them on a bus and take them away from their friends at Eastport, only to bring in children from outside the neighborhood? It doesn't make sense," she said.

Sheryl Banks, of the Black Political Forum of Anne Arundel County, defended a different aspect of the Annapolis redistricting plan -- reopening Adams Park Elementary School.

The school board had promised to reopen the school no later than 1997, but is now trying to determine if desegregation guidelines would allow them to create a school with a majority of black students.

"No one requested opening a minority school. The community asked for a neighborhood school," Ms. Banks said. "I did the calculations. The school would have 60 percent African-American children and 40 percent Caucasian."

She said the desegregation laws should not apply because the board would not intentionally be setting up a situation that would be discriminatory.

"I don't see anyone bringing desegregation up when they're creating schools with mostly Caucasian students," Ms. Banks said, adding that Severna Park and Crofton elementaries both have student populations that are about 90 percent Caucasian.

Of the county's 117 schools, five have student populations that are more than 50 percent black.

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