School border debate begins Board weighing proposal to transfer 2,150 students

Final decision Jan. 25

Boundary changes affect elementary, high schools

January 04, 1996|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Starting what is sure to be a difficult debate, the Howard County school board began discussing how to adjust school boundary lines last night.

Under the proposal being considered, more than 750 elementary school students and more than 1,400 high school students would change schools next fall to accommodate the opening of Ilchester Elementary School and Long Reach and River Hill high schools. No middle school boundary lines are proposed for alteration.

Although the board took no action during last night's work session, members' questions and comments indicated the proposals are almost sure to change. The board will hear suggestions Tuesday night at a public hearing on redistricting.

The school system adjusts boundary lines almost every year to accommodate enrollment growth and new schools. The 37,500-pupil system is expected to add 10,500 students -- and as many as 14 new schools -- in the next 10 years.

The board spent most of its time working through how to redistrict the high schools -- including looking at two alternative redistricting ideas suggested by Associate Superintendent Maurice Kalin.

One suggestion called for changing the dividing lines between Howard and Long Reach high schools to keep more Elkridge residents at Howard High and more residents of Columbia's Long Reach village at Long Reach.

Dr. Kalin's proposal included:

* Expanding westward the line for students who would be transferred to Long Reach High to include those students who live on Goldenstraw Lane, Stillmeadow Lane and Open Meadow Way, and students who live on streets that feed only onto those three streets.

* Keeping at Howard High all Elkridge students who live north of Montgomery Road and South Hanover Road, and students who live on streets that feed only onto those two roads.

Many Elkridge residents had been upset with the original proposal because they felt it would have split their community by sending students living east of Interstate 95 to Long Reach High.

His proposal is "consistent with what some of the folks in Elkridge asked for," Dr. Kalin said. It would save the money because more students within walking distance of Long Reach would be assigned there instead of being bused to Howard, he said.

Dr. Kalin also suggested that the board consider redistricting the Columbia Hills neighborhood from Centennial High to Wilde Lake High next fall, rather than waiting until 2000. He said the proposal would relieve some crowding expected at Centennial.

But board members suggested they may come up with their own major redistricting changes during the next several weeks.

Several members said they want to increase the number of students attending the new River Hill High School because its projected enrollment is below that of several of the older high schools.

"I believe this board took a strong stand that we want to put more students in the newer buildings than in the older buildings," said Chairwoman Susan Cook.

Last fall, the board specifically directed that the three newer high schools be permitted to accept up to 1,600 students without being considered crowded, while recommending enrollments at seven older buildings be kept smaller.

The board's Tuesday public hearing on the redistricting proposal will be at 7:30 p.m. at Hammond High School.

If necessary, testimony also will be taken Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Department of Education building.

A second work session will be held Jan. 16, and the board will make a final decision Jan. 25.

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