School plan no help, some parents say Neighborhood schools best, they tell board

Vote is next month on redistricting

March 06, 1997|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Annapolis-area parents overwhelmingly agreed last night with the Anne Arundel County school board's goal of sending children to neighborhood schools, but many said the proposed redistricting would not benefit them.

More than 200 people packed Annapolis Middle School, where more than 50 parents testified at the last of four redistricting hearings held around the county. The board will vote on the proposals next month.

One group brought 75 people to complain that, amid all the talk of neighborhood schools, no proposal had been put forth for their communities on the north shore of the South River.

"For 20 years, people have [told] the school board, 'We want to go to Edgewater schools,' " Cheryl Martin said before the hearing started.

Several parents from the communities on the north shore of the South River said their children are sent to Annapolis schools against their wishes. Because of that, most parents send their children to private schools.

"We believe that the busing of children for racial balance has succeeded in resegregating schools," Bob Jones, parent of a Rolling Knolls Elementary School student, told the board.

Black children from the Clay Street corridor attend Rolling Knolls, which is in a mostly white community.

Many parents' testimony seemed to indicate that they preferred their children to attend school only with children from their neighborhoods and that desegregation was not an issue, although having children attend neighborhood schools would increase segregation.

Eastport Elementary School parents said if their school is asked to accept poor black children from the Newtowne 20 complex, all resources for those children should shift, too. Newtowne youngsters attend Georgetown East now.

In large part, the redistricting proposal would take minority students who are sent as much as six miles from their homes to accomplish desegregation and put them closer to neighborhood schools. The theory is that the children would do better in school and that their parents would be more active in a school closer to home.

There was little agreement on anything. Some parents complained that the rate of transfers between schools is higher than in other counties; others called transfers a boost for Annapolis.

Retiree Betty Coleman spoke against transfers, saying, "If a school is not good enough for one child, it is not good enough for any child."

Shelly Shaplin, chairman of the countywide Citizens Advisory Committee's realignment committee, has taken the idea of transfers a step further. She spoke in favor of school choice, saying, "If you restrict choice or out-of-area transfers, you will force more children into private schools."

Pub Date: 3/06/97

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