Musical chairs Howard County: Board deals with emotional issue as new schools cause new boundaries.

March 20, 1998

NOT A YEAR GOES BY in Howard County without some parents having to worry that their children won't be allowed to finish school where they started. It's part of the price families pay to live in an area that is popular for its schools.

As more families with children move in, new schools are built and old ones that aren't crowded seek students to fill their classrooms.

Tempers typically flare as these mass transfers are discussed, as has been the case in recent weeks. Two elementary schools will open this fall -- Triadelphia Ridge and Gorman Crossing -- which means attendance boundaries have to change. Some children won't be reassigned to their current schools, and apprehensive parents are trying to make sure theirs are not the children transferred.

Part of a redistricting plan being considered by the school board would move some students from Bushy Park Elementary to Triadelphia Ridge, then move some students from Lisbon Elementary to Bushy Park. Lisbon parents have asked the board to leave their children alone and instead move children from Pointers Run Elementary to Triadelphia Ridge. Complicating matters is the fact that school board Chairman Stephen C. Bounds has a child at Lisbon. He insists that won't affect his vote.

Mr. Bounds points out that past school board members have made redistricting decisions affecting their children. That doesn't mean it's a good idea. These situations get emotional enough without having parents assume a board member was not impartial.

Mr. Bounds' participation in redistricting discussions will affect the ultimate decision. He doesn't need to cast a vote that might make the outcome that much harder for some parents to accept.

The board will vote Thursday on the Triadelphia Ridge-Gorman Crossing plan. But that will be only the latest chapter in a continuing story. The 40,000-student school system is expected to have nearly 8,000 new students within 11 years. Already preliminary plans exist for new middle schools in the northeastern and western portions of the county and a new high school near Fulton. Students will be moved. Many won't finish where they started. The board's job is to make these necessary changes as easy to swallow as possible.

Pub Date: 3/20/98

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