Redistricting that is expected to send hundreds of Howard County elementary pupils to new schools will be voted on by the Board of Education tonight, and a decision on other changes that will impact hundreds of middle school pupils will follow Tuesday.
Superintendent John R. O'Rourke and his staff gave their final redistricting recommendations to the board this week. While the board considers those ideas and others, the only certainty at this point is that the outcome will leave some parents unhappy.
The most controversial suggestion from school administrators would leave the Hopewell neighborhood an island of pupils without a neighborhood school.
It would also reverse efforts of parents there who open-enrolled their children in one school to get them away from another's poor test scores and high percentage of low-income pupils.
"This was the most difficult problem to solve, and I'm not sure we entirely solved it," said David C. Drown, head of the schools' Office of Geographic Information Systems.
Drown presented the superintendent's recommendations to the board. Its members focus solely on amending two recommended plans handed over in October, ignoring two alternative versions that were also considered.
The contentious amendment concerns pupils attending three elementary schools: Talbott Springs, Stevens Forest and Jeffers Hill.
Drown said the superintendent and his staff recommend taking about 80 youngsters living in apartments and townhouses north of Kilimanjaro Road out of Talbott Springs and putting them into Stevens Forest, along with pupils living on one of four cul-de-sacs off Kilimanjaro.
Children in the Sewells Orchard and Orchard Hill neighborhoods would attend Talbott Springs as well, which could turn some walkers into bus riders.
The changes were recommended to accommodate concerns that Talbott Springs would be left with a high percentage (26 percent) of students receiving free and reduced-price meals (FARM) while nearby Stevens Forest would have a much lower percentage (8 percent), and to even out normative test scores between the two schools by bringing Stevens Forest's average down and Talbott Springs' up.
Many Hopewell parents have been sending their children to Stevens Forest because of Talbott Springs' lower ranking.
A recommendation also was made to move pupils who live in an area north of Route 175 from Deep Run Elementary to Bellows Spring Elementary, to reduce the gap between the schools' free and reduced-price meal numbers and test scores. Pupils in the Mayfield Avenue community would stay at Deep Run.
The recommended plan also would not redistrict anyone attending Laurel Woods or Forest Ridge elementaries. It would leave the 12 Banneker Road children in Bryant Woods Elementary instead of moving them to Running Brook; move 25 children who live on Scotts Landing Road out of crowded Hammond Elementary and into Fulton Elementary; and assign pupils on McGee Way to Longfellow Elementary.
Only one change to the recommended middle school plan was suggested: assigning Scott's Landing Road pupils to Lime Kiln Middle instead of Fulton Middle.
Jane B. Schuchardt, the school board chairman, was careful to point out that the superintendent's recommendations are just that, and no decisions have been made.
"We are going to analyze this and decide if this is what is best," Schuchardt said. "We support the superintendent, but you don't really want somebody on the board [who is] not going to question what they [the members] are supporting. ... We have to consider how it will affect our children, that's what [O'Rourke] is always telling us to do."