School board to vote on policy shift

November 01, 1994|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

The Anne Arundel County Board of Education is to vote tomorrow on a policy change that could mean fewer public hearings will be needed before new school boundaries are chosen.

The proposed policy shift -- two weeks before a redistricting plan is to be submitted to the board -- is apparently an attempt to avoid the bureaucratic problem that kept the board from transferring this fall's eighth-graders from George Fox Middle School to Northeast High School.

In February, the state Board of Education ruled that the local school board had violated its own policies.

The problem, the state board said, was that the transfer of eight-graders was not part of the original plan put out for public comment, bur rather was created based on public comment at a hearing. For that reason, the state board said, the county board, under its own policies, should have held another public hearing on the proposal.

The revised policy would allow the board to adopt a plan for public discussion and hold one public hearing. After that hearing, the board could take public comment and dramatically revise the plan, but would no longer have to hold a second public hearing.

Eleanor Harris, assistant to the superintendent, said the policy change would "give the board more flexibility."

"Suppose eight or nine attendance areas are affected by a redistricting proposal," Dr. Harris said. "Then it becomes a very cumbersome process. There's also a time problem, because everything, all the public hearings and changes, must be finished by April 30."

Dr. Harris also noted that the public already has a chance to submit comments in writing.

"Public input is not limited to public hearings," she said.

The policy change also would make closing a school separate from redistricting "because closing a school may or may not involve redistricting," Dr. Harris said.

Tomorrow's meeting of the eight-member board begins at 10:30 a.m. and will be held at school system headquarters on Riva Road in Annapolis.

The potential problem with the existing public hearing requirements became apparent in February, when the state board ruled that George Fox Middle School eighth-graders would not, as planned, go to Northeast Senior High this fall.

Parents in the schools that "feed" into Northeast had challenged the county's decision, arguing that they were left out of the discussion.

The state board ordered the county school board to hold a new public hearing, but none was scheduled because of plans for a countywide redistricting.

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