Gray Plan is unfair to N. Laurel students As a resident...

Letters

January 06, 2002

Gray Plan is unfair to N. Laurel students

As a resident of North Laurel, I am very concerned about the new school boundary changes proposed by the Fulton/ River Hill areas of Howard County known as the Gray Plan. One community developed this plan, for the sole purpose of creating an elite school for the wealthy at the expense of the most needy of the county.

The school board created a committee for the purpose of creating new high school boundaries. Their recommendations were based on five objectives given to them by the school board: keeping neighborhoods together, considering distance and transportation, creating diversity of demographics, taking into account future developments and the educational welfare of the students. Looking at the Gray Plan from the North Laurel prospective, this plan does none of the above.

As far as keeping neighborhoods together, the Gray Plan may keep the wealthy neighborhoods together; but it sends North Laurel students to three different schools. The North Laurel students from Cherry Tree and other developments along Route 29 (the wealthier communities) would go to the new Reservoir High, the communities along Gorman Road would go to Hammond High and the Laurel Woods area would go to Atholton.

The second objective was to reduce distance and consider transportation. Our students in North Laurel currently have a very long commute to Atholton. Under the new Gray Plan, our students would pass two schools on their way to Atholton. Furthermore, I do not understand why North Laurel students should have to drive into Columbia to go to school, while the Columbia neighborhood of River Hill would be transported out of Columbia to go to the new school. Our students need to be at the bus stop at 6:45 a.m. to arrive at school at the 7:30 a.m. start. Once the new mega-development in North Laurel is complete, I am sure that due to traffic created by all these new homes our students will need to leave even earlier. The Gray Plan does not even consider transportation issues for North Laurel.

The third objective was to create diversity of demographics. Anyone who looks at this Gray Plan can tell that there would be no diversity at the new Reservoir High. The gray plan would create a school with few, if any minorities and virtually no moderate/low-income students.

The fourth objective was to create a system-wide plan, taking into account future developments. The new development in North Laurel will create a traffic/congestion problem that has not been addressed. To continue to drive to Atholton, North Laurel students will have to drive through this new area.

The final objective was to look at the educational welfare of the students. Moving students is not easy, and it creates disruptions, but these disruptions are long overdue for our students and in the long run are well worth it. If our students could sleep an extra 20 minutes in the mornings, they would be more alert. If they went to a school closer to home, they could participate in athletics and after-school clubs.

The Laurel Woods area, because of the diversity and number of lower-income families, needs to attend a school that is more convenient. Many of our parents are overwhelmed at having to drive to Columbia for school-sponsored events, clubs and conferences. The Gray Plan does not look at the educational benefits for the North Laurel students of attending a closer school. The disruptions that will occur are only for the next two years; we are looking at a plan that will work not only now, but also in the future.

Our school board appointed a committee to work towards these five goals. This committee worked hard for a very long time and came up with three plans. All three of these plans had North Laurel attending the new Reservoir High School. Their recommendations were based on their knowledge of all the communities in Howard County. The school board should accept one of the plans produced by their appointed committee and reject any plan (especially the Gray Plan) that is created by a community for their own benefit. Howard County does not need another elite High School. We need a school that is diverse and close to our homes.

Karen Allen

Laurel

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