More pupils might shift schools Boundary-line plan may affect about 760 elementary students

'Need to provide relief'

Board will vote on final proposal on March 26

January 29, 1998|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

About 50 more western Howard County elementary school pupils than initially planned may be asked to change schools next year as the school system opens an elementary school and grapples with growth in that part of the county.

If approved by the school board, the plan announced by Howard school officials would affect some 760 pupils in six schools.

The plan includes two major changes from the county's first proposal: Seventy-one pupils at Clarksville Elementary, which was not named in the original plan, and a different, smaller pool of pupils from Lisbon Elementary, might be moved.

Among some parents at those schools, opposition to the changes is mounting, as it does each year in school districts affected by boundary adjustments.

"I know that we need to provide relief for our overcrowded schools," said Stephen C. Bounds, chairman of the Howard school board. "I was not surprised to see some things change from the initial proposal. Even though you tell people not to count on anything based on the early proposals, I think maybe some of them just tune out when they see their [school's] name is not the list right away. But things always change."

The proposal, presented at a school board meeting last week, marks a shift in some of the redistricting ideas initially presented to parents at public meetings last month in part because of some 300 survey forms filled out by parents at those meetings, said Maurice Kalin, associate superintendent in charge of redistricting. In addition, about 50 parents called Kalin and several met with him to discuss their redistricting ideas.

"I would characterize the response as normal," he said, refusing to describe the nature of the parents' recommendations. "Nothing out of the ordinary."

Kalin's staff recommendation to the school board said the "general ideas" expressed in the parental responses include:

Move pupils from Clarksville Elementary rather than Lisbon Elementary to fill Triadelphia Ridge Elementary, the school scheduled to open next year in western Howard.

Shift parts of the northeast region that contains six schools to St. John's Lane Elementary.

Allow fifth-graders to stay where they are.

Move to Centennial High the Wilde Lake High students who live in the area of Forest Hill Swim Club.

Parents opposed

For some parents -- particularly those at Clarksville and Lisbon elementaries whose children would switch schools -- the proposed change is not welcome.

"This is going to devastate the school," said Amy Jaffe, PTA president at Clarksville Elementary, where 71 pupils may face a transfer to Triadelphia Ridge. "For parents and children who are going to remain at the school, the concern is that we won't have enough students to fill our classes and we'll lose staff members. Mr. Kalin took us totally by surprise."

Said Becky Yoshitani, a parent at Clarksville Elementary whose three children would move from the school under the new proposal, "Mentally, what's tough is we all think of ourselves as part of Clarksville. This will very much make us part of western Howard County even though we're oriented toward [Columbia's] River Hill village and Clarksville. This changes a lot about the way you envision your community."

Growth poses problem

According to the Department of Education, the problem is not so much potential crowding at Clarksville Elementary but the growth at neighboring Pointers Run Elementary. Projections show enrollment at Clarksville is expected to stay almost exactly the same for next year but rise to an over-enrollment of about 75 within the next decade.

The Clarksville pupils are essentially being moved to clear the way for transfers -- starting in 2000 -- from Pointers Run, where school board figures predict an overenrollment of nearly 120 pupils within the next 10 years.

"We know Pointers Run is going to be tremendously crowded," Bounds said. "Where are you going to take them? The only other area is Clarksville. This is the domino effect, and it's got to provide down-the-road relief to Pointers Run."

Underenrollment expected

The latest proposal also would mean changes for pupils at Lisbon: Although about 80 pupils from the southwest portion of that school's district were initially to move to Bushy Park Elementary, now 62 pupils from northeastern areas would make the change.

Kalin said half of the 300 or so survey responses came from parents at Lisbon, many of whom protested the changes they said were unnecessary.

At Lisbon, the loss of pupils is expected to create underenrollment for several years, according to Department of Education projections.

"We don't want to be redistricted at all," said Valerie Hillman Narron, PTA president at Lisbon. "We're continuing to fight this."

The children of about 65 percent of the officers in Lisbon's PTA would be redistricted if the current proposals are adopted, Narron said.

The Lisbon pupils would fill spaces at Bushy Park, created when some 217 pupils -- some 40 percent of Bushy Park's student population -- enroll at Triadelphia Ridge in the fall.

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