Redistricting affects 1,350 children School board OKs boundary changes for next year

3 new schools opening

McKenzie Road is line between Waverly and Hollifield Station

March 26, 1997|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

The Howard County school board last night approved a redistricting plan that forces more than 1,350 elementary and middle school students to switch schools next fall.

In the most controversial of its boundary line changes, the board chose McKenzie Road as the border between Waverly Elementary School and the new elementary in Ellicott City, saying it was willing to split up a neighborhood to avoid opening a new school with more students than its capacity.

"I can't in good conscience leave a facility 40 percent under capacity while another school is over capacity," said board member Stephen Bounds.

The board also assigned students living in Columbia's MacGill's Common neighborhood to Hammond Middle School as parents had requested, rejecting a proposal to send those pupils to Oakland Mills Middle School.

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

The board adjusts boundary lines every year because of enrollment changes and new schools. The 39,000-student Howard system is expected to grow by about 5 percent a year, adding about 8,200 students by 2002, according to school officials.

Throughout more than 10 hours of school board hearings and work sessions, the question of where to draw the boundary line between Waverly and Hollifield Station dominated the discussions. Last night was no exception.

Waverly is off Old Frederick Road to the west of Hollifield Station, which is off Rogers Avenue. The question was whether to draw the dividing line at one of two streets intersecting Old Frederick Road between the two schools, either Old Mill Road or McKenzie.

Most families living east of Old Mill wanted Old Mill, saying that's the natural border for their neighborhood. They also said that using Old Mill would restore the concept of feeder schools, as it already is the boundary line for Patapsco Middle School.

Most families living west of Old Mill wanted McKenzie as the line, saying that using Old Mill would leave Waverly with too few pupils and Hollifield Station with too many.

Board members said that while they are reluctant to draw a boundary line that divides a neighborhood, they believe the better decision is to spread the enrollment more evenly between the two schools.

Using McKenzie gives Waverly and Hollifield Station about 400 pupils each in 1997-1998. Dividing the schools along Old Mill would have left Waverly about 200 students below capacity and Hollifield Station with an enrollment slightly greater than its 500-student capacity.

"When I have to make a choice between a social reason and an educational reason, I have to choose an educational reason," said Sandra French, chairwoman of the board.

French said it is the board's responsibility to make sure that every county school is fully used, and part of that means not leaving the enrollment at one school over capacity and the enrollment at a nearby school below capacity.

MacGill's Common

The other big redistricting decision still in doubt last night involved MacGill's Common.

Students living in that Columbia neighborhood now attend the overcrowded Clarksville Middle School. The question was whether to assign the students to Oakland Mills Middle -- which likely would have meant that they eventually would be assigned to Oakland Mills High School -- or to Hammond Middle, keeping them in line to attend Hammond High School.

"MacGill's Common demonstrated that the community is very much together and wants to go to Hammond Middle School as a group," Bounds said. "It's very easy to support this."

Other boundary line changes approved by the board last night include:

Transferring to Hollifield Station the approximately 195 St. John's Lane Elementary School students who live east of U.S. 29 and north of U.S. 40. The new development south of Town and Country Boulevard at U.S. 40 and U.S. 29 will remain at St. John's Lane.

Transferring to Hollifield Station those Waverly Elementary School students who live east of McKenzie, on McKenzie and on streets that can be reached only from McKenzie. The change affects about 175 Waverly students.

Transferring to the new Fulton Elementary the approximately 300 Pointers Run Elementary School students who live south of Guilford Road between the Clarksville and Clemens Crossing Elementary School boundary lines. Students who live on streets that exit only onto Guilford Road will continue to attend Pointers Run. The new elementary is off Route 216 near Lime Kiln Road and Murphy Road in Fulton.

Transferring to Hammond Middle about 50 Clarksville Middle students who live in MacGill's Common.

Transferring to the new Murray Hill Middle those Hammond Middle students who live east of Murray Hill Road; on streets that exit only onto Murray Hill; south and east of Gorman Road between the intersections of Leishear Road and Murray Hill; east of Leishear Road between Gorman Road and Route 216; north of Route 216 between Leishear Road and Interstate 95; and east of I-95.

About 465 students will transfer to Murray Hill, which is off Gorman Road near Murray Hill in North Laurel.

Transferring to Hammond Middle the approximately 165 Patuxent Valley Middle School students who live east of U.S. 29, south of Route 32 and west of Broken Land Parkway. The area is sometimes referred to as Dickinson.

No high school changes

Board members agreed not to make any changes this year to high school boundary lines, saying that they want to wait a year to see how enrollment fluctuates and gauge future student interest in the new technology magnet program.

Pub Date: 3/26/97

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