School district changes unveiled

Cousin plan would shift 2,200 students over 3 years

`Conservative and prudent'

Changes to take effect when Marriott's Ridge High opens

Education

Howard County

October 29, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

Howard schools Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin unveiled a high school redistricting plan last night that he characterized as "conservative and prudent" because it would move the fewest students possible and can be sustained over several years.

The proposal would shift about 2,200 students over three years, beginning next fall when the county's 12th high school, Marriott's Ridge, opens in Marriottsville. The school would open with freshmen and sophomores.

"I was looking for a plan to move the fewest students and have sustainability over time," Cousin told a standing-room crowd gathered at the Board of Education building in Ellicott City.

Redistricting is common in Howard County, where rapid growth has forced the school system to redraw school district lines virtually every year in the last 15, creating one of the most contentious education issues. By the time Marriott's Ridge opens, the school system would have built 25 schools since 1989.

"My goal tonight is to make everyone happy," Cousin said in his introduction, drawing laughs from the audience.

The superintendent's plan - presented by school system demographer David C. Drown - closely resembles the so-called "green" plan drafted by a redistricting committee.

Atholton, Reservoir and Wilde Lake high schools would be unaffected by boundary line adjustments.

Students from Glenelg, Mount Hebron, River Hill and Centennial high schools would be sent to Marriott's Ridge, with the bulk of the students coming from Mount Hebron.

The superintendent's recommendations include:

Sending Mount Hebron students residing west of Old Mill Road and Bethany Lane and north of U.S. 40 to Marriott's Ridge.

Moving Glenelg students east of Underwood Road and north of Interstate 70, including all pupils who attend Mount View Middle, to Marriott's Ridge.

Reassigning River Hill students north of Folly Quarter Road and east of Jumpers Hill Lane to Marriott's Ridge.

Sending Centennial students in the neighborhoods of Terra Maria and Fairways to Marriott's Ridge.

Moving Centennial students in Worthington, northern Ellicott City and on New Cut Road to Mount Hebron.

Reassigning River Hill students in the Green Bridge area bound by Green Bridge Road and Route 32 to Glenelg.

Moving Howard High students from Brightfield Farms, Montgomery Run and those living on Lambskin Lane and Bronze Bell Circle to Long Reach.

Sending Howard High students from the Wheatfield neighborhood to Centennial.

Reassigning Hammond students from the areas of Hopewell, Guilford Gardens and Solar Walk to Oakland Mills.

Drown also presented to the school board two options that could affect a handful of families.

One would allow about 25 current freshmen at River Hill High, who attended four different schools in four consecutive years, to stay at their high school instead of being redistricted either to Mount Hebron or Glenelg.

The other would allow a few rising freshmen and sophomores in the Worthington community in Ellicott City to stay at Centennial High instead of moving to Mount Hebron High. They could remain if their siblings were split between two high schools during the last redistricting in 2001 and if the siblings would be split again next year.

The superintendent's proposal also includes alternatives to his recommendations that would affect few communities, including one that would leave the Worthington neighborhood in the Centennial High School district. The superintendent also made some minor adjustments to middle school boundaries, mostly to relieve crowding at Patapsco Middle, which is projected to be at 117 percent of capacity next year.

Middle school pupils living in the so-called Kaiser property off U.S. 40 would be moved from Patapsco Middle to Burleigh Manor Middle.

Other middle school changes include sending students from the Terra Maria community to Mount View Middle School from Burleigh Manor Middle.

Underscoring the contentious nature of the redistricting process, each board member told the audience which high school district they live in and from which school their children graduated.

"It's difficult, but you have to remain neutral and unbiased," said school board member Sandra H. French. "We have to look at what's best for the county."

Added Courtney Watson, the board chairman: "You have our commitment that we'll be looking at the global interest of the county." The school board is scheduled to hold its first work session at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Board of Education building, 10910 Route 108, Ellicott City.

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