Board urged to shift pupils

At hearing, parents back plan to alleviate Pointers Run crunch

`We need help ... fast'

Proposal could move 230 schoolchildren to nearby elementaries

March 15, 2002|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

Parents from Clarksville's Pointers Run neighborhood crammed the Howard County Board of Education meeting last night to support the district's plan to move about 230 children out of Pointers Run Elementary School next year to free up space in the county's most crowded elementary school.

Parents were prepared to move their children out of Pointers Run, if necessary.

"As the county continues its attempts to assure a quality education for every student in Howard County regardless of socioeconomic background or school attended, please consider the needs of the children at Pointers Run," said Patrice Durham, past president of the Pointers Run PTA. "With an enrollment of 1,152, children are being left behind."

Pointers Run has a capacity of 666 pupils. The elementary school has more students than some county high schools. Teachers have resorted to using closets, stage and hall space to accommodate children.

"Needless to say, we need help and we need it fast," said parent Claudia Littman.

Board members had considered staff members' recommendations to alleviate crowding at Pointers Run by sending more than 200 children to nearby Clarksville Elementary School. Last week, members discussed returning about 26 pupils who attend Clarksville out-of-district to their home schools.

To accommodate the Pointers Run students, the school system is building an addition at Clarksville and may move about 30 more children from the Ellicott City neighborhood of Gaither Farm from Clarksville to nearby Longfellow Elementary in Columbia.

Parents from Gaither Farm opposed the move, and asked school officials to "wait and see" if projections for growth in their neighborhood are accurate.

In a meeting last week with Superintendent John R. O'Rourke, Gaither Farm parents said they were against changing elementary schools because the number of children affected is too small, and pupils might feel isolated.

"Averaging less than five students per grade, our students do not make a difference in Clarksville's population nor in Longfellow's," the parents wrote in a letter to O'Rourke. "We do not add classrooms nor affect staff positions."

Gaither Farm parent Carrie Adler-Myers said last night that her neighborhood "accounts for small groups of students at each grade level. We average less than five students per grade."

Her neighbors were concerned that the move changes the neighborhood's entire feeder system - from Clarksville Middle to Harper's Choice and from River Hill High to Wilde Lake.

But other Pointers Run parents at last night's hearing disagreed.

"It is a fallacy that Gaither Farm and open-enrolled students will not impact needed classroom space at Clarksville," said parent Andrea Beri. "Open-enrolled and Gaither Farm students will force the need for at least two more teachers and hence, two more classrooms at Clarksville."

Parents also encouraged board members to make this round of redistricting the last for Pointers Run - despite another redistricting process set for next year.

"Once this decision is made, we want to be done with any redistricting," said parent Jill James. "We want to be able to go on with our lives, without this concern, and spend as much time with our children as we can."

The board will decide on boundary lines March 21.

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