Redistricting plans attract board critique

Minor school boundary fixes affect few children

`I don't want to see this repeated'

Proposal ignores addition at Oakland Mills High

Howard County

November 07, 2003|By Tricia Bishop | Tricia Bishop,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Board of Education took the school system's demographer to task last night over redistricting recommendations for the coming school year, claiming that many of them are needed to fix careless mistakes from previous years.

"The whole process that led us to this point concerns me," said board member Courtney Watson, who suggested to demographer David C. Drown that he and the boundary-line committee create some kind of checklist to make sure they haven't missed anything when making changes.

"I don't want to see this repeated, this kind of situation," she said.

Unlike in recent years when thousands of students have been shuffled around to fill new schools, this round of redistricting is relatively minor and meant to fix feeder systems that move children from elementary schools to middle and high schools.

A second goal is to make a cleaner-looking boundary line diagram by smoothing out some rough edges.

"We're essentially just cleaning up the map," Drown said.

Drown recommended six changes to the board:

Reassigning Dobbin Road and Gateway Drive neighborhoods from Jeffers Hill Elementary to Dasher Green.

Sending all addresses that exit onto Route 104 from Ilchester Elementary to Waterloo to even out the elementary school boundaries with the middle school boundaries.

Reassigning Dobbin Road and Gateway Drive from Patuxent Valley Middle School to Owen Brown.

Sending children between 15300 and 15491 Roxbury Mill Road from Folly Quarter Middle to Glenwood to keep a school bus from having to make a "dangerous left-hand turn."

Reassigning students in Gaithers Farm and on Homewood Road south of the Middle Patuxent River from River Hill High School to Wilde Lake to balance middle school feeds into the schools.

Sending students living between 4344 and 4474 Columbia Road from Wilde Lake High to Centennial High for a more natural division of the neighborhood.

The suggestions would affect only 27 students, all of whom likely would be given the option to be grandfathered in and stay at their current schools. New students and those graduating to middle school or high school would be the first to feel the redistricting impact.

Board members raised concerns about making such minor changes outside of a comprehensive redistricting. A new high school opening in 2005 will require countywide boundary changes, as will two new elementary schools set to open in 2006.

"This to me is piecemeal redistricting," said Sandra H. French, the board chairman, adding that she can't believe the community has not "raised a ruckus" over it.

Missing from the conversation was any discussion about moving students to fill a 275-seat addition scheduled for Oakland Mills High School next year, which raised concerns for French.

"I'm deeply concerned that any consideration [of that] was not included in this document," she said, referring to the committee's recommendation packet. "We have an addition opening next year, but there's no recommendation on how we're going to fill it."

Drown said his committee chose to wait until the new high school opens to make those suggestions.

The board will hold a hearing on the options at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at school system headquarters, 10910 Route 108, Ellicott City.

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