Last school plan heard

Board will consider several options before a decision Thursday

High school districts at issue

Parents are assured their ideas, concerns listened to in process

January 18, 2002|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

At the Howard County school board's final public work session on high school redistricting last night, the five members considered yet another proposal for redrawing boundary lines, debated whether to move sophomores to help fill the new Reservoir High School and assured parents and community members that they were listening to all their concerns.

Board members compared the merits of the "comprehensive plan" - a modification of the red and gray plans - offered by the makers of the gray plan and Kendall Echols, a River Hill parent who had previously submitted a rejected plan, called the River Hill Feeder Fix.

Under the comprehensive plan - which Echols calls a compromise of the best of red and gray - a portion of North Laurel's students would go to Reservoir, all of Clarksville Middle School would feed into River Hill High School, and all of Lime Kiln Middle would feed into Reservoir.

The red plan, recommended for consideration by David C. Drown, the system's coordinator of geographic systems, suggested sending all of North Laurel to Reservoir. That idea was bothersome to the creators of the gray plan - members of the Fulton/Lime Kiln community - because it split their neighborhoods among two or three high schools. It also divided the River Hill neighborhood of Pointers Run.

"The red and gray plans represent polarized options with respect to populating Reservoir High School," Echols wrote to the board in his plan. "If they remain the only options available, the board will be required to render a decision that, regardless of the plan selected, will produce anger and resentment from communities on a large scale."

Most board members seemed amenable to Superintendent John R. O'Rourke's idea that students becoming juniors should stay in their home schools to minimize disruption, but they appeared opposed to the idea that students becoming sophomores should be afforded the same treatment.

"It would cost us a significant amount to continue the phasing for another year," Drown told board members, referring to the "phasing-in" of grade levels year after year until the school is full.

Parents who have advocated that the sophomores to stay in their home schools have stressed that they would provide transportation to alleviate the need for additional buses.

But board Chairwoman Jane B. Schuchardt said the system would be required by law to provide buses in those neighborhoods, whether one child was riding the bus or 20.

"That is not an option," Schuchardt said. "We have to supply the transportation anyway."

After the meeting, Mount Hebron parent Colleen Reardon said she took issue with the fact that the board now allows an entire western neighborhood to attend Glenelg High School out-of-district, so long as parents provide transportation, but they won't do the same for students become sophomores.

Reardon has been lobbying the board for months to allow sophomores to stay.

Many other residents also had concerns they wanted the board to address last night, including River Hill parents who want members to wait to redistrict their area until further studies are done.

Many have said they feel that the board - despite numerous public hearings and an endless stream of e-mail and telephone calls - isn't listening to their ideas and complaints.

Schuchardt told the audience before the meeting that that was not at all the case.

"We hear all the time that we're not listening," she said. "I guarantee you, we're listening."

The board will set new boundaries for high schools Thursday.

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