Howard County Board of Education members began narrowing proposals last night for redrawing high school attendance areas as they prepared for next week's vote on a redistricting plan.
For two weeks, the school board has been evaluating several plans that would fill a 12th high school opening next fall while relieving crowding at other high schools.
The board has been working off Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin's proposal that would leave alone Atholton, Reservoir and Wilde Lake highs, while moving about 2,200 students over three years to fill Marriott's Ridge High School, which will open with freshmen and sophomores.
The board also has been considering the "red" and "green" plans submitted by the Howard County School Boundary Line Committee, the superintendent's alternate proposal and others submitted by residents.
After a nearly four-hour public hearing yesterday, the school board eliminated from consideration three community-based proposals.
One would have shifted more than 4,000 students throughout the county.
The second, submitted by the Fairways community in Ellicott City, would have kept that neighborhood's children at Centennial High instead of moving them to Marriott's Ridge, as called for under the superintendent's plan.
The third, proposed by the Worthington neighborhood in Ellicott City, also would have kept its children at Centennial High instead of moving them to Mount Hebron High.
The school board left open the possibility of considering other alternatives for the Worthington and Fairways communities.
Worthington's proposal drew the school board's sympathy because the community had been redistricted to Centennial High from Mount Hebron in 2002 when Reservoir High opened. But board members said the plan created attendance areas for Centennial, Howard and Long Reach high schools that would have produced enrollments exceeding or nearing a maximum level set at 110 percent of their capacities.
"It's a tough call here because board members made a decision that they thought was best at the time based on the data they had at the time," said Courtney Watson, the board chairman, referring to the previous board's decision on moving the Worthington students.
The capacity target is one of several criteria that the school board will use to evaluate plans. Others include feeder systems that move children from middle to high schools, socioeconomic standing, academic performance and how often a neighborhood has been redistricted.
At the hearing earlier yesterday, the board heard from more than 70 parents.
Residents from the Waverly community worried that Marriott's Ridge High would open with too few students. The neighborhood's students are slated to move to the new school from Mount Hebron High.
"You have not heard the `west of Bethany Lane' crowd lament or complain about having to rip our kids out of a wonderful high school that we currently attend, Mount Hebron," said Phyllis McWilliams, the mother of ninth-grade twins. "The smaller the population at Marriott's Ridge, the less choices that students will have for a variety of elective courses and possibly even AP courses."
Oakland Mills High, however, will not be able to handle the students slated to move there from Hammond High because it is smaller compared with the newer and larger schools, said Heather Tepe, a representative of the Oakland Mills booster club.
Each speaker presented a compelling case as to why his or her children, or neighborhood, should not be moved to another high school.
"Everyone has a moving story," said parent Weigus Ye. "Every kid, every parent. It's a very tough job."
The school board is scheduled to vote to accept a redistricting plan at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday during its regular meeting at the Department of Education building, 10910 Route 108, Ellicott City.