Boundaries for schools spur concern Parents, students fear shifts would harm communities

'We'd like to stay together'

Changes are needed to accommodate 2 new high schools

January 14, 1996|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

High school boundary lines proposed for next fall threaten to tear apart communities across Howard County, say parents and students fearful of being redistricted.

More than three dozen residents of Elkridge, Fulton, Glenelg, Ellicott City and east Columbia braved the approaching winter storm Thursday night to urge the Howard County school board not to split their neighborhoods when it redraws the boundaries.

Wherever the parents were from, the theme was the same: Let students who have gone to school together since kindergarten stay together.

The school system needs to adjust boundaries by fall to accommodate the opening of two high schools, Long Reach and River Hill. An elementary school, Ilchester, also is scheduled to open.

Under the proposals the board is considering, more than 750 elementary school students and more than 1,400 high school students would have to change schools. No changes are proposed for middle-school boundaries.

More than 40 parents and students testified at the Thursday night hearing, almost all of them commenting on the proposed high school districts.

One parent testified on the elementary school proposals, and he supported Associate Superintendent Maurice Kalin's recommendations for redistricting schools in Elkridge and Ellicott City.

4 The protests from the five communities included:

* Clarksville-Fulton: Fifteen Fulton-area parents and students who live east of Pindell School Road are upset by the proposal that would keep them at Atholton High while nearly all of their neighbors would be sent to River Hill High.

"My children will be isolated from the elementary school and middle school community they have grown up with from kindergarten through grade eight," said parent Lou Marino.

Atholton freshman Diane Norman said, "Most of my friends will be attending River Hill High School, and we'd like to be together."

A petition signed by 139 residents of the area who oppose the redistricting proposal was submitted to the board, said parent -- Anne Darr.

Parents suggested that the boundary between Atholton and River Hill be shifted east, to Sanner Road or Route 29, to permit the entire Fulton community to be in the River Hill High district.

The parents' proposal appears to resolve some of the board's concerns about the boundary proposal. At the board's last work session, members said they wanted to send more students to River Hill and fewer to such older schools as Atholton.

* Elkridge: Several parents continued to protest a proposal to split their children between Howard and Long Reach high schools.

Parents want the entire Elkridge community at one high school, separating Elkridge pupils from those living in Columbia's Long Reach village.

"Please don't chisel parts of the Elkridge community away from each other," said Elkridge parent Barbara Kendrick. "Don't make us feel that we don't live in Elkridge anymore."

Dr. Kalin's most recent recommendation calls for sending Elkridge students living north of Montgomery Road and South Hanover Road to Howard, and sending those living south of those roads to Long Reach.

That proposal is a change from Dr. Kalin's initial plan, which would have sent Elkridge students living west of Interstate 95 to Howard and those living east of I-95 to Long Reach.

"Keep Elkridge together in one high school or the other," urged parent Ginny Stickles. She cited recent violence between Elkridge and Long Reach pupils -- including a Nov. 30 fight at Howard High that left one student slightly injured -- as a reason to separate the students.

* Glenelg: Parents and students who would be redistricted from Glenelg High School to River Hill are split over the proposal to divide River Hill and Glenelg along Triadelphia Road.

Some parents said they embraced the move, but others said they didn't want their children to have to travel farther to get to River Hill.

"It's incomprehensible to me that my children and other children in the Heritage [development] will have to travel three times as far to high school," said parent Mary Ann Johnson.

* Ellicott City: Eight residents of Ellicott City's Columbia Hills neighborhood asked the board to delay any redistricting of their children. They said that because of uncertainties over future enrollment, it would be best for the board to wait as long as possible before changing boundaries.

"Last year we were told we would go to Howard High in '96. Now it's Wilde Lake [High School]," said parent Bob Geiger. "By 2000, the numbers may be completely different."

Mr. Geiger and other parents urged that if a change must be made, it be phased in so that there would be "as little disruption in our children's lives as possible."

* East Columbia: Four residents of MacGill's Common -- a neighborhood in Columbia's Kings Contrivance village -- urged the board to keep their children at Hammond High School.

Dr. Kalin has proposed that their neighborhood be redistricted from Hammond High to Oakland Mills in 1997.

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