Parents question high school change

Shift to Oakland Mills anticipates Howard overflow, official says

February 08, 2000|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

Parents and a few students from the neighborhoods of Thunder Hill and Glenmont in Columbia filled a room at Thunder Hill Elementary School last night to find out why local eighth-graders could wind up going to Oakland Mills High School next fall instead of Howard High School.

The 70 people who crowded into the media room at the east Columbia elementary school questioned school administrator Maurice F. Kalin about his proposal to change the high school Thunder Hill and Glenmont students would attend.

Kalin, the Howard County schools' associate superintendent of planning and support services, recently recommended the change as part of his redistricting proposal for next academic year.

Twenty-seven students in Thunder Hill and 15 students in Glenmont would be affected. Kalin also recommended that younger children in those neighborhoods attend Oakland Mills High School once they reach ninth grade.

The school board will vote March 23 on the redistricting plan, which would also affect several hundred elementary school pupils.

Kalin, who attended last night's meeting, said student enrollment trends prompted his recommendation.

Projections show that by 2010, Howard High School will be over capacity by more than 900 students, while nearby Oakland Mills High School will have space for 600 more students, Kalin said.

Middle-schoolers in the Thunder Hill and Glenmont areas attend Oakland Mills Middle, making them part of the Oakland Mills High School feeder system, he said. However, Kalin acknowledged that it would cost more to bus these students to Oakland Mills High School than to Howard High School.

Some parents wanted to know why school officials wouldn't first remove the 48 students open-enrolled at Howard High School before reassigning students who live in the area. Kalin said such requests can be brought up at the school board's work sessions on redistricting.

Other parents said Route 175 is a barrier between their neighborhoods and Oakland Mills High School, and that the busy road is unsafe to cross on foot.

Parents pointed out that Howard High School is closer to the two neighborhoods than Oakland Mills High.

"We can see the school, we can walk to school, and it doesn't make any sense to any of us why we have to be moved," said JoAnn Shay O'Neill, whose daughter is in seventh grade. "We're such a small group."

Thunder Hill parent Darlene Frank said polls of pupils in Thunder Hill and Glenmont show that 80 attend middle school and plan to attend public high school in the area. Moving this relatively small number of children would have little effect on the crowding at Howard High or the extra space at Oakland Mills High, Frank said.

O'Neill and others would prefer that school officials wait until the high school planned for Fulton opens in 2002 before making redistricting decisions. Filling that school's classrooms will require redistricting, affecting many of the county's high schools, O'Neill said.

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