Vote on open enrollment expected

Board policy would spell out exceptions

April 26, 2001|By Marian Morton | Marian Morton,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Board of Education is expected to vote on guidelines tonight that would firmly close the door on open enrollment in the county's public schools in all but a handful of specific circumstances.

The board voted at its March 20 meeting to extend a moratorium on open enrollment implemented last year that ended the county's policy of open enrollment in its public schools.

Before the moratorium, parents could effectively hand-pick their children's schools as long as they could provide transportation to schools outside their districts and if they chose schools that were below capacity.

However, as parents found loopholes in the policy since the moratorium took effect last school year, numerous exceptions have been granted.

The new guidelines, if approved, would eliminate open enrollment except in six situations. Transfers would be allowed:

If a family is building a home in the school district to which they are requesting a transfer.

For children of full-time school employees to the school where the parent works.

Where reassignment is necessary because of disciplinary action against a student.

In circumstances in which the principal believes a student is not safe in a given school.

To permit student participation in a JROTC program.

To supplement low enrollment in Stevens Forest Elementary School.

"We're going to follow [the guidelines] 100 percent," said Board Chairwoman Jane B. Schuchardt.

Also tonight, Superintendent John R. O'Rourke is expected to present a list of possible operating budget cuts to the board. School funding in County Executive James N. Robey's proposed budget for 2002 is about $7 million short of the amount requested by the school administration.

The board is also expected to discuss a new promotion and retention policy for elementary schools. The policy was proposed in a report drafted by a committee that began work on the issue in November.

Under the committee's recommendations, elementary school pupils would have to be on pace with their grade levels in math and reading or face retention. The committee's report also recommends that schools develop intervention strategies to help children in danger of failing a grade.

James Pope, assistant to the director of elementary schools, said the proposed policy essentially mirrors one in place in county middle schools, with a few changes.

A strict promotion and retention policy was implemented in middle schools at the beginning of this school year. It requires pupils to pass all courses and Maryland functional tests and earn final grades of no lower than C in language arts, social studies, math and science to be promoted. Children who do not meet these criteria could be held back or required to attend summer school.

The board also is expected to decide tonight whether to grant preliminary approval to a proposed site for an elementary school near Route 108 and Montgomery Road. The elementary school, which would be the county's 38th, is to open in 2003.

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