Redistricting ideas from parents under consideration by school board

Some proposals rejected at second work session

March 17, 2000|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

After listening to parents voice their opposition and offer suggestions on redistricting recommendations earlier this week, Howard County school board members and administrators responded last night.

The board took some suggestions into account and rejected others during its second work session on the redistricting plan.

In the plan unveiled in January, Associate Superintendent Maurice F. Kalin suggested moving 144 pupils from Waterloo Elementary School to Jeffers Hill Elementary School. But a speaker at Tuesday night's public hearing offered an alternative that board members and Kalin seemed to think more viable -- moving 40 of those pupils to Phelps Luck Elementary School to alleviate the impact on Jeffers Hill.

"It's not uncommon for something to come up at the public hearing that is a good suggestion, or at least something for us to look at," board member Stephen C. Bounds said last night. "This has a lot of pluses."

Many parents have complained that redistricting is done every year in a piecemeal fashion that is disruptive and confusing. They have also complained that portions of Kalin's redistricting proposal were not presented to the community until January.

They suggested that the board refrain from redrawing boundaries for high schools until a long-range plan is in effect.

Kalin took issue with that suggestion and displayed maps from 1994 and 1995 to show that administrators and previous boards had developed a long-range high school redistricting plan, particularly in the Oakland Mills area.

"This was not a January activity," Kalin said. "It was not something that was concocted over the Christmas break. So if people are surprised, I'm surprised that they're surprised. Frankly, I'm offended when the general public comes in here and says this is the first time they've heard this."

Board members spent at least 90 minutes last night discussing crowding in the northeast county schools, which is projected to worsen over the next several years because of growth.

"I wholeheartedly believe that the northeast is under so much stress that we should disallow open enrollment at the schools that we are considering redistricting," said Sandra H. French, the board chairman.

"And Rockburn, Waterloo and Jeffers Hill -- not just Jeffers Hill as [in Kalin's plan] -- should have their open-enrollment students sent back" to their home area schools, French said.

At parents' requests, open-enrolled students may attend schools outside their home area.

Kalin has suggested sending open-enrolled pupils at Jeffers Hill Elementary back to their home schools to help make room for Waterloo pupils who might be redistricted.

But French said parents who live within Rockburn and Waterloo school boundaries think it is unfair to allow open-enrolled pupils to stay while their children are sent elsewhere.

Bounds said that some schools in the northeast are more crowded than Rockburn and Waterloo.

"Why not Deep Run and Ilchester and other places that are more stressed?" Bounds asked French.

"If we're going to do [send open-enrolled students back] at three schools, we might as well do it at all of them," said board member Laura Waters.

Kalin said the board might want to consider doing that.

The board will vote on 2000-2001 school boundary lines March 23.

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