School district battleground

Boundaries: Children deserve quality education, regardless of where they live.

October 22, 2001

MARYLANDERS do it all the time. They move into a community whose schools post superior MSPAP and SAT scores and figure they've got it made for good.

In their minds, they're permanently, inseparably locked into that school district.

Then redistricting comes, and reality hits.

The wake-up call may soon come to some residents of Baltimore County, because schools there will be redistricted to fill New Town High School, scheduled to open in 2003.

Reality already has come to Columbia's River Hill Village, whose well-regarded high school is bursting at the seams.

The Howard County school board soon will consider one of several citizen-drafted redistricting plans that would send many current River Hill High students to a new high school being built to relieve overcrowding.

More than 100 parents -- most of them from River Hill, but some from other parts of the county -- jammed a meeting room last Monday as a citizens committee worked on the plans.

River Hill residents don't like the plans for two reasons:

They're concerned that the new school, which is under construction, won't provide the same quality of education, although its talented principal will handpick her staff.

And they fear that redistricting would -- or at least could -- lower property values.

The first worry is likely ridiculous.

Howard County is no slouch among local jurisdictions when it comes to school funding; the new school won't get short shrift on that end.

And the new school's student population will be made up of kids from other high-performing schools.

Why would their performance suddenly slide downward?

On the property value front, people who buy homes because of schools should remember that there's no guarantee that current boundary lines will remain intact.

It's a fact of life in real estate -- not much different from zoning concerns or other government regulation issues -- and any real estate agent will tell you that if you ask.

What should be guaranteed, however, is a quality education -- regardless of school.

While parents in River Hill probably won't have to worry about that no matter what happens with the current redistricting plan, other families still do.

Parents clamoring to keep district lines the way they are would have no worries about moving if schools in every district provided a top-notch education.

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