Redistricting options appear to be narrowed

Likely choice would displease Glenmont

`Plan One just won'

School system office, board still must decide

October 02, 2002|By Tricia Bishop | Tricia Bishop,SUN STAFF

As the work of the Howard County boundary line advisory committee nears its end, it looks increasingly like elementary school Plan One, which would move a protesting Glenmont neighborhood from Thunder Hill into Phelps Luck, will be favored.

At a committee meeting last night, it apparently sank in for members of the group that even though they have spent months of late nights considering where the county's elementary and middle school pupils should attend school next year, it is still the school system's office of Geographic Systems that has the last word in deciding what to recommend to the Board of Education Oct. 24.

"We're not even going to have a clue as to what [they're] doing until the last minute," said committee member Dennis Castleman. "[We] probably did so much work that no one will ever read, it's pathetic."

FOR THE RECORD - In an article in yesterday's Howard County edition of The Sun, a remark by Howard County School Boundary Line Committee member Dennis Castleman was placed in an inaccurate context. Castleman was referring to a previous year's bout of redistricting when he said the redistricting committee had done work no one will ever see. The Sun regrets the error.

Though no redistricting proposals were officially scrapped, it became increasingly clear that northeast region plans two and six are on the chopping block - not necessarily because committee members did not like them, but because the Geographic Systems office headed by David C. Drown did not develop them.

"Plan One will definitely go [forward]," committee member Tara Watts said. "That's the plan David Drown and his staff worked on for six months. The others came from the committee, with lots of voices. ... Plan One just won."

Plan One was changed slightly last night, though. It would send 34 kids from three streets - Good Hunters Ride, Little Foxes Run and Quiet Times - to Jeffers Hill instead of Phelps Luck.

Plan Three, the likely alternate, was also tweaked. It now would keep kids from Round Tree and Davis roads at Waterloo instead of sending them to Phelps Luck, and would move another 18 pupils from Waterloo into the new Bellows Spring Elementary.

Drown did assure the committee members that they would still recognize whatever plans he sent to the board, though he could not say they would recognize them after the board, the ultimate arbiter, got a hold of them.

Brampton Hills

If the plans move forward as predicted and are subsequently adopted, the Brampton Hills area will breathe a big sigh of relief.

Their kids attend Ilchester, and that is where they want them to stay, particularly because of special programs they say are available there. Plan One would keep the schoolchildren there instead of sending them to Waterloo or Phelps Luck.

"It's not so much that I don't want my kids to go to another school - nobody does, nobody likes change - but to take kids out of a program all of a sudden doesn't seem right," said Amy Vittori, whose first-grader gets what she calls "exclusive" phonics training at Ilchester. "It concerns me that they didn't look at school curriculum in making these moves."

Glenmont, on the other hand, is likely to balk.

It's a tight-knit community, as they all are, and none too happy about sending its kids to a school it considers a lesser performer.

"It's as much a social thing as it is a test score thing," said David Leatherman, who lives in Glenmont. "But the test score thing is a big thing."

Next steps

Much remains to be done, however, and only one meeting is left before the committee is dismissed from the planning phase.

Next Tuesday, members will reconvene after having read over the latest numbers on free and reduced-price meals, the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills and feeder reports to try to weed through the contentious northeast region elementary school proposals to find the least offensive one.

The idea in considering that data, Drown said, is to avoid staggering changes and essentially even out the schools' numbers.

After the final meeting, Drown will take the remaining proposals back to his team, and it will make adjustments and pick the favorites. Then it is up to the board, which will make its final decisions, after several work sessions and public hearings, late next month.

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