Board approves redistricting based on opening a Dayton elementary


Education Beat

November 27, 2005|By JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV

After eight months of meetings, hundreds of e-mails and about 50 options, the Howard County Board of Education has passed a series of redistricting measures geared toward the opening next year of a new elementary school in Dayton.

"This has been an exhaustive process," said Courtney Watson, the school board chairman. "It is the most difficult aspect of being a board member. You are sitting there and the bell will ring every 30 seconds because the e-mails are coming in."

Still, Watson said this year's process was easiest since she joined the board in 2003. She said taking a long-term approach, having better projections and working more closely with the Department of Planning and Zoning helped to ease the process.

"Overall the process was tighter and more efficient," said Watson, who has participated in three redistricting processes. "Most of the people in the process felt that the outcome was as good as it could be given the reality that students would have to be moved."

As a result of the board's decisions about 1,400 students, from elementary to high school, will attend a different school next fall.

Howard County has opened 26 schools since 1990, and the county absorbs about 500 to 700 new students each year, Watson has said.

"Redistricting is the price we pay for a rapidly growing county," Watson said. "It is the result of new development which produces new students."

The reasoning behind redistricting is to prevent crowding, Watson said.

"You can only live with overcrowding so long before it impacts the quality of instruction," she said. "They [schools] can't handle it [overcrowding] indefinitely."

About 100 parents and students filled the board room at Tuesday night's meeting.

Before the meeting started, some parents approached board members with last-minute requests. Watson was even approached by two pupils from Glenwood Middle School who shared a petition begging the board not to force them to attend a new school next year. More than 200 of their classmates signed the petition in a two-day period.

The board passed a series of motions that created a domino effect. To feed enough pupils to the new Dayton elementary school, the board needed to move almost 700 from Triadelphia Ridge and Clarksville. Triadelphia Ridge Elementary will move 433, and Clarksville Elementary will shift 222.

These moves will create space at both schools and will provide relief at Manor Woods and West Friendship elementaries. About 54 pupils from Manor Woods and 102 from West Friendship will transfer to Triadelphia Ridge.

In addition, 138 pupils from Fulton Elementary School will now attend Pointers Run Elementary, and Pointers Run will send 96 pupils to Clarksville.

Centennial Lane Elementary will send four pupils to Thunder Hill Elementary, and Burleigh Manor Middle School will send three pupils to Dunloggin Middle School.

Other moves will affect middle school pupils, as well.

Dunloggin will send 62 to Ellicott Mills; Folly Quarter will send 88 to Mount View; and Mount View will send 63 to Burleigh Manor. Patapsco Middle School will send 23 to Burleigh Manor and 45 to Dunloggin.

High schools were not exempt from the changes.

Mount Hebron will send 26 students to Centennial. The rationale for this change is to align pupils from Burleigh Manor Middle to Centennial.

To prepare for a future western middle school, the board will send 20 pupils from Folly Quarter Middle, originally set to go to River Hill, to Marriots Ridge.

In all, the board took 90 minutes to explain each change to the audience. When the explanation was complete, the audience applauded.

"I was very pleased with the response of the crowd," Watson said. She added that she was surprised with the response. "That doesn't mean everyone is happy. But everyone had their say."

Kathy Bodine, a parent of two Glenwood Middle School pupils, said she was pleased with the board's decision not to move her children.

"We believe the Board of Education has the concerns of all the students at heart," Bodine said.

Terry Paul -- mother of two Manor Woods Elementary School pupils and one Folly Quarter Middle School pupil -- said she had mixed feelings about the changes.

Paul's seventh-grade son at Folly Quarter will now attend Mount View next year.

"It will be tough on him," said Paul. "But we get to stay with our community, and for that I am relieved."

In April, the process begins again as the school system prepares for a northeastern elementary school and a replacement building for Bushy Park Elementary, both scheduled to open in August 2007.

"As long as we grow as a county, we will have to go through this process," said Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin. "We just don't have enough seats."

Acceptable air

An independent evaluator has deemed the air quality acceptable at Atholton High School.

The indoor air-quality survey conducted by Building Dynamics measured the air from Aug. 31 to Oct. 21 in response to several complaints from staff members.

The staff approached the administration about the school building environment -- in particular about variations in temperature in the building, discoloration of ceiling tiles from pipe condensation and roof leaks.

The survey uncovered maintenance issues that the school system has started to correct, according to Atholton Principal Marcy Leonard, who said the report is available for review in the school's main office.

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