Parents anxiously await redistricting Opening of 2 schools to affect 1,300 students

October 14, 1997|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

Parents all over the county are holding their breath.

School officials are preparing for a series of late-night meetings packed with parents.

All this anxiety is over who will go to which school once two new elementaries are built.

"It's not just moving kids into the new schools," said Kathleen Sanner, a planner for the school system. Some children will be moved around among the existing schools, she said, in an attempt to have boundaries that make geographic sense and fit into the flow of students from elementary to middle to high school.

Redistricting is among the thorniest issues school boards face. This time, the changes in boundary lines for elementary and middle schools will be among the most comprehensive and far-reaching in recent history. The changes will affect more than 1,300 students and as many as 16 schools.

The final plan will emerge in April, May or June after staff meetings, public hearings and school board votes.

Linton Springs Elementary School, scheduled to open in August in South Carroll, could draw its 750 students from Carrolltowne, Eldersburg, Freedom, Piney Ridge and Friendship Valley elementary schools.

Cranberry Station Elementary, scheduled to open in August 1999, could draw its 600 students from Charles Carroll, Friendship Valley, Robert Moton, Westminster and William Winchester elementary schools.

School officials also will adjust middle school boundary lines, but much less extensively than for the elementary schools.

The idea for the middle schools is to avoid pockets of students who would not be sent to the same high schools as their fellow students.

For example, students who go to Mechanicsville Elementary and Westminster West Middle School, and then Liberty High School, might be switched to Oklahoma Road Middle School, a change many of those parents have been asking for.

New Windsor Middle School could send some students to Northwest Middle School and pick up students from West Middle.

And some Westminster Elementary School students who now go to West Middle and Westminster High could go instead to Runnymede Elementary, Northwest Middle and Francis Scott Key High School.

Jackie Barber, a kindergarten student at Westminster Elementary, could be one of the children affected. She is eager to buy a sweat shirt and other items with her school name and panda mascot on them.

But her mother, Joyce Barber, is reluctant to spend the money when she doesn't know which school her daughter will attend for first grade.

"It could be Runnymede, it could be Charles Carroll, and it could be staying at Westminster," said Barber, whose family lives on Erbs Drive northwest of Westminster.

"To find out in June makes it really hard," she said. For example, she leads a Girl Scout troop at Westminster Elementary. If her two daughters attend a different school, she'll want to move her volunteer duties, too.

Barber is resigned to the fact that Jackie will probably have to change schools in first or second grade and that her sister, Jennifer, might have to switch in fourth or fifth grade.

But her biggest concern is that the girls would have to change two years in a row, since the two new schools are opening in different years.

Superintendent Brian Lockard and Vernon Smith, the school support services director, said the reason for the all-at-once redistricting is to avoid such problems and to come up with a comprehensive plan that takes into consideration both new schools.

A committee of school principals and other administrators, transportation staff members and parent representatives from all affected schools will begin meeting Oct. 22 to prepare a plan the school board and parents could see in January.

As in the past, the staff will present options, first to the school board, then at public hearings in March and April. Parents may comment at the hearings or in writing before the board votes in April.

The board usually votes on boundary changes at a night meeting in the section of the county affected by the changes.

Sanner said the committee has yet to decide whether to lump changes together for one public hearing and vote, but that she would prefer to see at least some of the changes separated to deal with specific areas of the county.

"It's going to be very difficult to keep the comments straight if we don't hold some hearings that deal with specific schools," she said.

Pub Date: 10/14/97

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