Parents: Get involved in child's new school I am very...


November 18, 2001

Parents: Get involved in child's new school

I am very disconcerted to read the article "Battle over school lines," Nov. 8, in the Howard section of the Sun, that citizen representatives of the county-wide Boundary Line Advisory Committee for high school redistricting have been subjected to hateful e-mails, verbal abuse, telephoned harassment and threats of being sued.

I would like to remind the folks who feel entitled to go to a particular school that this is a county school system and one of the best-regarded in the nation. This group of representatives from each of the 10 existing county high schools as well as some chosen "at large" were given the charge to work with school employee David Drown to come up with viable plans for alleviating the current overcrowding at county high schools by not only populating the new high school opening in the fall of 2002, but also doing more to shift student population from the very overcrowded north and northeast.

They were asked to work for the benefit of the whole county when looking at boundary line adjustments. Not an easy task, but very necessary.

We in Howard County are lucky to have county officials and school board members who appreciate the value of 1,300- to 1,400-student high schools. It does mean more schools have had to be built, and not always in preferred locations, but where affordable land was available.

Look at a map of where the county high schools are located. Only Glenelg is located more than a few miles from Route 29. Only four of the 10 high schools are east of Route 29, and three of those are within walking distance from each other, yet almost half the population of the county now lives east of Route 29.

Here again we are fortunate: because our county is so small, it doesn't take very long to get anywhere in it. So we can keep using our schools in areas where the population is aging by bringing in students from nearby neighborhoods.

Can you imagine what our property tax rates would be if we were to discard our multi-million dollar school buildings and build more in the newly populated areas each decade or so? After all, people have been moving to this county for the past 30 years at a rapid rate not only because of the highly regarded schools, but also because of the relatively low tax rates. The only practical answer is to continue to populate our existing expensive buildings.

Now a little bit of historical perspective: I have had children in Howard County schools since 1975, and I have seen neighborhoods fight to keep from leaving school A to go to school B, and then fight just as hard some years later not to leave school B and return to school A. Why? Because change is not easy. But it is necessary.

Even counties that build high schools with a 2000-plus capacity - such as Carroll County - eventually find it necessary to build new schools and go through this same process, but with much less vitriol, even though the bus rides are almost always longer than any in Howard County.

In 1992, the school my neighborhood was redistricted back to was called some very disparaging names. It was shameful. How were the students of that school to feel, told by neighboring communities their school was inferior? Of course it wasn't true, as the families who stayed soon found out. And their energy and involvement have made this school even better.

Surely we know the age of the building does not determine the quality of the classroom experience. If it did, people would not be upset about the possibility of leaving Howard, Glenelg and Atholton high schools. But they are. And yet, it has to happen.

So, to the parents of students who will attend a different school next year, I encourage you to bring the same amount of energy you are now focusing on anger to whatever school your student attends by way of your involvement. I'm sure you will agree that it is the time and effort that parents put in their children's school that make an otherwise OK school really good, and a really good school even better!

And to the members of the much maligned Boundary Line Advisory Committee, for the countless hours you have volunteered in an effort to improve the educational welfare of the high school student population of Howard County by relieving much of the overcrowding, thank you. (And remember, it is the elected members of the Board of Education who will make the decision on school boundary lines, not the members of this committee).

Barbara Russell


Atholton High grad credits school, teachers

I am a 2001 Atholton High School graduate who now attends the University of Maryland at College Park. On visits home, I have read a number of statements in the newspaper from parents who do not want their students to be redistricted to Atholton, a school they view as inferior.

I'm here to tell you that these parents and their students are in for a surprise. Atholton has a wonderful staff, and thanks to their efforts, I feel extremely well prepared for college both academically and emotionally.

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