School plan drafts OK'd

Panel approves 2 of 4 outlines for student redistricting

Called `fatally flawed'

Public may review proposals before they're sent to board

Howard County

October 09, 2001|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

During an intense meeting attended by more than 100 parents last night, members of a citizens advisory committee approved for further consideration the rough outlines of two redistricting plans that could send as many as 3,000 Howard County high school students to new schools next fall.

The committee rejected two others but said it might consider other, entirely new plans next week.

The approved plans will be reviewed by the public and face possible further modification before being forwarded by the committee to the county school board.

The school board must make a final decision on redistricting by early next year to begin preparations to shift 1,332 students out of existing high schools to the new Reservoir High School -- the county's 11th.

The plans, shown to the committee two weeks ago, were drafted by David C. Drown, the school district's coordinator of geographic systems who has been working with the committee to help draw new boundary lines.

Before the meeting, committee member Mary Catherine Cochran from Centennial High School called all four plans "fatally flawed" because they do not relieve enrollment pressure on schools the northeastern part of the county in 2005, where there is expected to be a population crunch.

Committee members at the meeting agreed that none of the plans could go forward without being changed. Alan Beier of River Hill High School said, "I don't like any of these plans. I'm embarrassed to send them out of here."

But Drown said before the meeting began that he needs more input from committee members than just the pros and cons on the details. "I really haven't heard enough concrete suggestions on how we fix this," he said.

The committee listened to his request and approved the plans designated "black" and "orange" with significant modifications. The plans designated "blue" and "green" were scrapped.

The black plan would send several hundred students from River Hill to Reservoir High School but was modified to leave Long Reach High School untouched until 2003 and Howard High School untouched indefinitely.

Several dozen parents from the Wheatfield development near Long Gate Shopping Center attended last night's meeting wearing red badges and shirts to protest proposals that would have shifted their students away from Howard. They appeared to have won their point.

The orange plan is similar to the black plan with some modifications. The committee directed Drown to find ways to adjust the orange plan by adding students to Oakland Mills High School.

Reservoir High School will be in Fulton, in the southern end of the county. To relieve enrollment pressures in the north, the plans involve shifting students in and out of almost every high school in the county. Each plan would require between 2,500 and 3,000 students to be moved, according to Drown.

Atholton , north of Route 32 in Columbia, the high school closest to the new school, might feel the biggest impact with up to 2,000 students moving in and out.

"I think every plan has a flaw from any particular community's perspective," said Cochran. "I don't think there's one plan out there that will make everybody happy."

The advisory committee, which includes two representatives from each of the 10 county high schools and eight at-large members, has been meeting since March in an attempt to reach a consensus on new school boundaries that will be submitted to the school board.

This is the first time a committee of community members will advise the board on the redistricting process.

Committee members have been evaluating the proposals based on how each meets school board guidelines, including creating a feeder-school system and considering distance, transportation, diversity and course selection.

In the past, Associate Superintendent Maurice F. Kalin drew school boundary lines that the community later commented on. Kalin retired in June, after helping draw boundary lines for 27 years.

Maps of the proposals approved by the committee will be shown to the public Oct. 23 at Hammond High School and Oct. 24 at Centennial.

The public will have the opportunity to discuss the proposals in a series of work sessions between the end of this month and the end of the year.

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