Board votes to shift pupils

About 200 children will move to ease crowded conditions

Pointers Run relieved

Some parents worry about feeder system quality, official says

March 22, 2002|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

More than 200 children will move to a different elementary school next year to free up space at Pointers Run -- Howard County's most crowded elementary school.

After three weeks of work, the Board of Education last night approved a redistricting plan that will disperse pupils among three schools: Pointers Run, and nearby Clarksville and Longfellow elementary schools.

With more than 1,000 children enrolled at Pointers Run, parents and teachers have been clamoring for the past two years for relief. Although the capacity at the school is about 660, the school has more students than some county high schools, and teachers have resorted to using closets, stage and hall space to accommodate children.

Next year, school officials said, Pointers Run would have significantly more room.

The approved plan will send to Clarksville from Pointers Run:

184 pupils in kindergarten through fifth grade who live along Trotter Road and have sole access to Trotter Road.

Pupils with access to and including Fall Moon Ride, Indian Summer and Linden Linthicum Lane.

Pupils who live north of Fall Moon Ride with sole access to Great Star Drive, excluding Countless Stars, Pure Sky Place, Ascending Moon Path and Moonsails Lane.

About 33 more children from the Ellicott City neighborhood of Gaither Farm would be sent from Clarksville to Longfellow Elementary in Columbia to make room for the Pointers Run children.

Last month, parents in Gaither Farm petitioned the board to spare their community the move because the shift changes their neighborhood's entire feeder system. Instead of Clarksvile Middle School, Gaither Farm children will go to Harper's Choice; they will attend Wilde Lake High School instead of River Hill.

But board Chairwoman Jane B. Schuchardt said the Gaither Farm community would learn to accept the board's decision.

"I think basically Clarksville and Pointers Run people are very satisfied," Schuchardt said. "I think Gaither Farm people will be in the long run."

Board member James P. O'Donnell said many Gaither Farm parents who contacted him were concerned about what they perceive to be differences between Longfellow and Clarksville. He said many expressed this privately, but skimmed over it in public.

"The concern of some parents is the quality of education their students will have will not be the same in the new feeder system," O'Donnell said.

School officials and staff members quickly denounced the differences, saying opportunities for success exist at all Howard County schools. They promoted the comparable numbers of gifted students in both elementary schools, and bragged about the high SAT scores at Wilde Lake and River Hill.

Testing Director Leslie Wilson acknowledged that Harper's Choice Middle doesn't look "too positive right now," but said the school has a new principal, is improving and is one of the schools targeted under the county's new achievement initiative.

Sandra H. French, the board's vice chair, said the decision to move the children was the "prudent" thing to do for the entire county, and assured Gaither Farm parents that they won't be the only group to feel the sting of redistricting.

"I understand the community's deep distress," French said. "We have been under the direction of the County Council to use all available seats as wisely as possible. The only way to do that is to redistrict students into Columbia. Next year, there will be a countywide elementary and middle school redistricting that will continue this approach."

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