Panel ponders moving pupils

Board debates open enrollment and crowding

March 03, 2000|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

As Howard County school board members considered a proposal last night to redistrict several hundred students, they discussed whether it is fair to let open-enrolled pupils stay in crowded buildings while children living in the immediate neighborhoods are moved elsewhere.

In his redistricting recommendation for the next academic year, Maurice F. Kalin, associate superintendent of planning and support services, proposed that pupils open-enrolled at Jeffers Hill Elementary School be sent back to their assigned schools.

Children who are open-enrolled live outside the boundary lines of the school they attend. Their parents have to furnish transportation.

Kalin did not recommend that open-enrolled pupils be moved out of the crowded schools in the northeastern part of the county.

About half of the students open-enrolled in northeast schools live in the northeast, and sending these children back to their home schools wouldn't solve crowding problems, Kalin said.

"To move 180 students to have a net change of 90 -- it has a negative impact on half the kids with no real purpose," he said.

Board Chairman Sandra H. French said some parents see inequities in allowing open-enrolled children to stay while others are redistricted elsewhere.

"I hear parents say, `OK, you're moving my child out of Rockburn [Elementary School], but you're allowing a child who doesn't live in the neighborhood to stay. That's not right,' " she said. "This is a solution that I think needs to be looked at."

Kalin proposals

Last night was the first time the board considered Kalin's redistricting recommendations, which he presented in late January.

His proposal includes moving 180 pupils in the Nottingham Village area from Rockburn Elementary to Waterloo Elementary School; 144 pupils who live in the Dobbin Road area from Waterloo Elementary to Jeffers Hill Elementary; the 39 open-enrollment pupils in kindergarten through grade four at Jeffers Hill Elementary; the 27 eighth-graders who live in Thunder Hill to Oakland Mills High School in the fall instead of to Howard High School; the 15 eighth-graders in Glenmont to Oakland Mills High School instead of Howard High School.

In January, Kalin also proposed moving three kindergarten classes from Ilchester Elementary School to Ellicott Mills at Bonnie Branch Middle School for a year to ease crowding. Last night, he said he would consider putting two portable classrooms at Ilchester, which would enable the kindergartners to stay.

Parents' support

That would please some parents. Sandy Kelly of Ellicott City, attended the board's work session with a large poster-board sign: "Keep kindergarten at Ilchester."

"There are a number of parents who feel as I do," she said before the meeting.

Redistricting Rockburn Elementary pupils would start a domino effect that would touch Waterloo and Jeffers Hill elementaries. Kalin told the board that the redistricting is needed to ease crowding at Rockburn, which is projected to be nearly 70 percent over capacity next fall.

Questions about Rockburn

Board member Stephen C. Bounds asked why an addition to Rockburn hadn't been considered.

"You would have to move less students out of Rockburn if you had an addition," Bounds said.

Kalin said that building an addition to Rockburn would not solve the problem because the school is severely crowded. He also said the Nottingham Village area proposed for redistricting once was in Waterloo Elementary's boundaries.

"It makes sense to take that 180 students out," he said.

A public hearing on redistricting is scheduled at 7: 30 p.m. March 14 in the Department of Education building, 10910 Route 108, Ellicott City.

The board will hold a second work session on redistricting at 7: 30 p.m. March 16 in the Education Department building, and will set the 2000-2001 school boundary lines March 23.

"Do not think this is a done deal," French said. "We are going to be working on this through March."

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