School board starts task of redistricting Lines to be drawn for new elementary, middle schools

Public hearing Tuesday

Plan would have 1,400 students change schools in the fall

March 07, 1997|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

The Howard County school board began the painful process of school redistricting last night, and it appears this year's tough decisions will involve setting boundary lines for the new elementary school in Ellicott City and moving middle school students in east Columbia and North Laurel.

Last night's work session gave board members the chance to begin questioning the specifics of a redistricting proposal for next fall that calls for more than 1,400 county elementary and middle school students to change schools in the fall.

The boundary line changes are required largely to accommodate the opening of three new schools in the fall -- Hollifield Station Elementary in Ellicott City, Fulton Elementary in Fulton and Murray Hill Middle in North Laurel.

The most recent recommendations by school Associate Superintendent Maurice Kalin do not call for any boundary line changes for high schools, and he said that any potential moves should be delayed at least a year. Board members informally agreed with that suggestion last night.

The board adjusts boundary lines every year to take into account enrollment changes and new schools. The 39,000-student Howard system is expected to grow by more than 21 percent -- or about 8,200 students -- by 2002, according to school officials.

While board members said that setting the boundaries for Fulton appears to be an easy decision, the new boundary lines for the other two schools are shaping up to be a struggle.

Kalin's primary recommendation in Ellicott City calls for Old Mill Road to be the dividing line between Hollifield Station and Waverly Elementary. But his alternative suggestion is that McKenzie Road be the dividing line -- a move that would shift 100 pupils from Hollifield Station to Waverly.

"Typically at this point, I'm quite confident of the recommendation," Kalin told the board, but comments from the community have "caused me to take a long look at this again."

Board member Karen Campbell said she is "squarely on the fence" between the two proposals.

Board members said comments from residents at Tuesday night's public hearing will be particularly critical in helping them make up their minds.

The other redistricting proposal that is raising questions among board members involves Murray Hill, Clarksville and Oakland Mills middle schools.

Kalin's recommendation is that students living in MacGill's Common be transferred from Clarksville Middle to Oakland Mills Middle -- a move that would relieve overcrowding at Clarksville and would boost the low enrollment at Oakland Mills.

But MacGill's Common residents have told board members they're reluctant to move to Oakland Mills and would rather be shifted to a middle school such as Hammond, from which students move on to Hammond High.

"The important thing here is that we relieve Clarksville," said board member Stephen Bounds. "The realization [of residents] is that it's got to happen. The question is where."

Several board members offered other suggestions on ways that additional students could be sent to Oakland Mills. Jane Schuchardt suggested that students in Hopewell could be shifted from Owen Brown Middle to Oakland Mills Middle.

Another possibility raised by the board was that students might come to Oakland Mills Middle through the future development of the 300 acres of farmland in the middle of east Columbia along Route 175. The farmland's reclusive owner died last month, raising the possibility that it might be sold and developed into residential neighborhoods inside the Oakland Mills Middle district.

As for the other main redistricting recommendation, using Guilford Road as the dividing line between Pointers Run and Fulton elementaries, board members said they've heard no complaints and anticipate that the proposal would be approved without changes.

After Tuesday's public hearing, the board will hold a second work session March 18 and approve final boundaries for next fall on March 25.

Pub Date: 3/07/97

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