Redrawn districts get mixed reviews Proposals will mean adjusting countywide

November 05, 1995|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

The high school redistricting proposals presented to parents last week already are prompting both anger and joy throughout Howard County.

Elkridge parents are upset by how the proposal would divide their community's students in half, ending decades of tradition at Howard High School.

In western Howard, parents who live within walking distance of Glenelg High School are bracing themselves for the long drive east to River Hill High School.

And in the Stonecrest and Worthington neighborhoods of Ellicott City, some parents are excited that their children will be redistricted to Centennial High School.

In two nights of meetings about the boundary-line changes last week, associate superintendent Maurice Kalin heard all of those reactions and more as he presented his "current thoughts" on how the high school districts will look next fall.

At least six of Howard's eight high schools will be redistricted next fall to accommodate the opening of two new high schools, Long Reach and River Hill.

The new buildings will relieve most of the county's high-school overcrowding for now, but they also will force at least 1,000 current freshman and sophomores to transfer schools -- many against their will.

Acknowledging that it is impossible for him to please everybody, Dr. Kalin emphasized that his current proposal is likely to change by the time he presents it to the school board Nov. 21.

He has called parts of it "the most difficult redistricting I've done in 20 years."

Nevertheless, several communities already are banding together in opposition to the proposal.

Elkridge residents were particularly vocal Thursday night against the part of the plan that would send students living east of Interstate 95 to Long Reach High.

"I've lived in Elkridge for 12 years, and I don't want my kids in a Columbia school," said Montgomery Woods resident Jeanie Bertoni, who has three sons in elementary and middle school. "Howard High School has been Elkridge's high school, and I want my kids in Howard."

Many of the longtime Elkridge residents say the plan would split up one of the county's oldest communities.

They point out that under the proposal, Long Reach High may have more students from Elkridge than from Columbia's Long Reach village.

"You're breaking up old communities when you should be splitting up the new developments," parent Chris Cisna told Dr. Kalin Thursday night. "I don't understand why established areas can't stay and new developments go to the new school."

But Dr. Kalin said he "can't go in and draw little islands" on the boundary line map. "I don't think it's a good idea to segregate the old and new," he said.

Dr. Kalin agreed to meet with a group of parents to discuss the boundary between Howard and Long Reach.

He also said that the line likely will be adjusted either south or east to send more students to Howard and fewer to Long Reach.

The new River Hill district also has some parents upset, particularly those who live closer to Glenelg High than to the new building in Clarksville.

"We moved out of Clarksville eight years ago to get away from the congestion," said Ken School, who lives 1 1/2 miles from Glenelg High and has a son who is a freshman there this year.

"At Glenelg, he could walk home if he stayed late for after-school activities. Now it's going to be a long drive for us to pick him up."

One mother even offered to bake cookies for Dr. Kalin to try to get him to change his proposal and send her children to River Hill High with their friends.

"If that will work, I'll try it," laughed Nancy Hostetler, who lives on Gaither Farm Road and has four children at Clarksville elementary and middle schools.

Most of her children's friends will be sent to River Hill High, but youngsters on her street currently attends Centennial High and could be redistricted to Atholton. "I just want my kids to stay with their friends," Ms. Hostetler said.

Weaknesses acknowledged

Dr. Kalin acknowledges that there are weaknesses in his current proposal.

For example, he estimates that about 100 fourth- and fifth-graders due to be redistricted from Worthington Elementary School to the new elementary school in Ilchester Road already have had to transfer schools when they were younger.

And Dr. Kalin also said he would prefer not to have to redistrict current sophomores for their junior year but insists that it is necessary to open the new schools with three full classes of students.

But he has agreed to consider allowing sophomores who would be redistricted to existing high schools -- next year, Centennial and Wilde Lake -- to stay at their current schools.

Not everyone is upset by the changes.

While many don't want changes, they understand the need to spread out the students to minimize overcrowding.

"We're sad to leave Worthington [Elementary School] because we've had such a wonderful time there," said Brampton Hills resident Laura Scott, whose two elementary school children likely will attend the new school on Ilchester Road next fall.

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