Getting off the Dime on Redistricting

November 24, 1994

The Anne Arundel County Board of Education is about to consider county-wide school redistricting for the fourth time in 20 years. All previous efforts failed due to public pressure on the board. This time, perhaps, real change will emerge.

The reason for optimism is that a parents' committee, which has spent five months studying redistricting, has presented a reasonable and realistic set of recommendations.

The parents' plan attempts to balance the need to make better use of existing facilities while still trying to preserve neighborhood schools and keeping classes intact as kids climb from elementary to middle schools. The proposal calls for about 3,100 students to change schools. But that is far fewer than the 16,000 pupils that some had estimated would have to shuffle around.

The committee was able to limit the number of students affected by planning for some new schools. Nevertheless, the construction recommendations are modest: six new schools and small additions of no more than six to eight classrooms to be built onto four schools during the next five years. Those proposals would appear to be within the construction budget offered by County Executive-elect John Gary.

The committee's proposal now must be reviewed by Superintendent Carol Parham, who will make her recommendation to the school board next month. New school boundaries could be in place for the 1995-96 school year.

No redistricting plan will please everyone. But accommodating the growing student population is a matter of deciding among unpopular options: double shifts, year-round schooling, higher taxes to fund construction. Against that backdrop, county-wide redistricting might be the least distasteful of choices.

Understandably, many parents and students are protective of their traditional schools. It isn't NIMBYism or elitism that spurs families to want to continue to send their children to the neighborhood schools their older siblings attended. Schools are the glue for a community, especially in a growing suburb where newcomers have shallow roots.

In the months to come, modifications will be made to the parent committee's proposal. But we commend the committee for at least producing a reasonable plan that can be the basis for further discussion and, ultimately, some action.

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