Residents critical of redistricting

June 14, 1994|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

Parents in Severna Park had one message last night for the committee developing a redistricting plan for Anne Arundel County public schools: Don't move our children.

"What I think we're talking about is choices," said Dan Wren. "My family made a choice to live here, and we're involved in the school and the community. Redistricting takes away the family choice."

Mr. Wren was among about 34 speakers, and some 250 Severna Park-area residents, who turned out last night to give advice to a committee redrawing school boundaries. The next public meeting with the redistricting committee is to take place at 7 p.m. Thursday at Old Mill High School.

Parents weren't alone in speaking out against redistricting.

"I'll have to get up earlier next year to get up in time to get to Severna Park Middle School," said Heather Kerns, a fifth-grader at Folger-McKenzie Elementary School. "I'll have to get up even earlier if I'm assigned to a different school. Do you know how difficult it is to get dressed in the dark? Remember, more time on the bus leaves less time for learning."

Allison Calcaterra, a student at Severna Park High School, had laryngitis last night, but she had her sister, Katie, read her statement.

"All the rumors about redistricting frighten and anger me," Katie read for Allison. "I don't think it's fair for the kids to have to suffer because the county didn't plan ahead. I want to graduate from the high school I started in, and I want my brothers and sisters to graduate from there, too -- the same school our mom attended."

School planners, too, blame county government for not planning far enough ahead, and for allowing developers to get waivers even when area schools won't be able to handle the new students who will come to live in the developments.

Waivers allow developers to proceed with a subdivision as long as they pay a set fee for every student the new units are calculated to generate.

Since 1971, the county has built 33 new schools. This year, the school system used more than 100 portable classrooms, compared with 60 in 1992.

School board members created the redistricting committee to look at the situation from a countywide perspective, instead of a school-by-school, neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis.

But the students and parents complained last night that such a viewpoint doesn't take into account the effect schools have on communities. They worry that students bused to different schools will be forced to miss out on after-school activities because they lack transportation.

"We urge the committee to consider community-based education," said Steven Tyler, representing more than 100 Severna Park-area parents who have formed the Committee for Neighborhood Schools. "Temporary use of relocatables, or modified schedules, would at least ensure community-based schools."

And parent Brenda Evans warned that redistricting means looking at communities, not just streets.

"My street has been moved four times into four different schools," said Ms. Evans, who lives in the Northeast High School feeder system.

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