5,000 students might be moved Consultant's findings point to redistricting, adding to buildings

December 17, 1998|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

To handle projected increases in the number of students in county schools, the school board cannot avoid redistricting up to 5,000 students and adding on to several school buildings, according to the preliminary findings of an independent consultant.

At a routine meeting in Annapolis last night, school board members reviewed an incomplete, 40-page report and technical appendix from the SHW Group, which has been studying enrollment figures and school facilities for three months.

The consultants say Anne Arundel has 20,229 high school students in 12 buildings and by 2007 will have 23,603 students, a number that will decline to 21,658 in the year 2017.

The 73,000-student system has 17,058 middle school students in 18 buildings, which will increase by 2007 to 18,904 students, then hold mostly steady through 2017, when 18,852 students are projected, the report said.

The report, which does not include recommendations, considers possibilities to stretch available space, including limited year-round schooling and moving sixth-graders back to elementary schools and ninth-graders back into junior highs.

Another possibility suggested is the construction of a high school in the northwestern section of the county, where most residential construction is going on.

None of those possibilities, the consultants indicate, would eliminate the need for redistricting. The system has empty seats in the Annapolis High School feeder system and crowded buildings in the Arundel High system in the western part of the county. About 25 schools are above capacity, officials said.

"Yeah, they look at redistricting like it's going out to buy a new set of tires for a car," said board member Thomas Florestano. "Redistricting is about as popular as death."

Shifting students and changing school boundaries has proved unsuccessful for the board, which recently lost a legal challenge from a group of parents from Seven Oaks, the the western part of the county, who did not want their children moved from the majority-white Arundel High School feeder system to the more heavily minority Meade High School system.

Superintendent Carol S. Parham has put off redistricting decisions until December 1999. The SHW Group will present its final feasibility report on handing crowded middle and high schools to the school board in February.

The board agreed in March to spend $335,000 on the study.

Pub Date: 12/17/98

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