Committee scales back school plan

Redistricting panel shows revisions at packed meeting

Parents sought changes

Recommendations call for moving about 3,700 students

March 09, 2000|By David L. Greene | David L. Greene,SUN STAFF

A Carroll school committee has scaled back its proposal to redistrict more than 4,300 students and has eliminated portions of the plan that rankled parents and communities. Nearly 500 residents packed the auditorium at Westminster High School last night to view revised maps and comment.

The 24-member group of residents and school officials presented its final recommendations to the school board. The revised plan calls for moving about 3,700 students, and reflects changes demanded by parents at public forums last month.

Kathleen Sanner, Carroll's director of school support services, said the majority of shifts proposed would fill three new schools -- Shiloh Middle, opening in Hampstead this fall; Century High, opening in South Carroll next year; and a new high school in Westminster, expected to open in 2002.

Not all residents were sanguine. Hundreds of Mechanicsville Elementary School parents flocked to the meeting to oppose moving 138 children to Robert Moton Elementary. Some explained that the school is the hub of their community and asked why a school with good test scores and strong parental involvement had to be disrupted. One parent, Richard Titus, charged that the committee had succumbed to pressure from Winfield Elementary parents, who last month protested their children being moved to Robert Moton.

"Winfield has been completely excluded from redistricting, and the burden has been placed on Mechanicsville," said Titus, adding that more than 80 parents met in an emergency meeting Monday after word of the committee's changes spread. "You can't say, just because one group of people is angry, that we're going to stick it all on Mechanicsville."

The school board, whose five members all attended, will review the redistricting issue and decide whether to adopt the committee's proposal, revise it or decline to redistrict.

A public forum has been set for 7 p.m. March 16 at Westminster High School. The board is expected to take final action March 27.

Board member Susan W. Krebs, a member of the redistricting committee, surprised many by speaking at length about considering alternatives to redistricting, such as building extensions on schools in crowded areas. Krebs echoed residents' suspicion that the redistricting is a veiled attempt to move students to the Westminster area to justify building a second high school there.

Some parents in Westminster believe that Westminster High -- with a capacity of 2,000 and ab enrollment of 2,250 -- is crowded and that a new high school is necessary, even if it means juggling students. For the first time last night, the committee presented a timetable establishing when schools would be affected during the next three years. Some pupils, such as those shifting from Spring Garden Elementary to Sandymount Elementary, would move this summer.

Others, like those moving from Hampstead Elementary to Manchester Elementary, would relocate in 2002 under the proposal. Clearing up another contentious issue, the draft recommends that 11th- and 12th-graders remain in their current high schools. That means Century High and the new high school in Westminster would open with freshmen and sophomores. Many parents expressed alarm their children would have to spend their last high school years in a new setting.

Copies of the revised proposal and maps are available to residents on the ground floor of the school system's main offices in Westminster. School officials said copies will be available at all schools by the end of the week.

Committee members said they carefully considered public input on their original plan, which was unveiled last month. Sykesville residents voiced loud opposition to a proposal to move 54 students from Piney Ridge Elementary to Linton Springs Elementary, saying it would split their town in two. The committee eliminated that recommendation.

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