Anne Arundel school board approves redistricting plans

April 07, 2011|By Joe Burris, The Baltimore Sun

The Anne Arundel County Board of Education voted Wednesday to approve redistricting plans for Fort Meade and to formally oppose the county's efforts to avoid paying $15 million to the district as required by state laws.

The redistricting plan, formulated by parents, residents and school system officials, would use the current West Meade Elementary School building as an early education center for Early Childhood Intervention, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students. The center would serve students assigned to West Meade, Manor View and Pershing Hill elementaries.

Pershing Hill Elementary is scheduled to open in August, and with Manor View would serve students in the first through fifth grades. The changes also take effect in August.

School redistricting is often a hot topic among parents, but Chuck Yocum, the school system's specialist in student demographic planning, said that the process, which began last fall, went well, and that as of Thursday he had received one call in response to the plan, from a family moving to Fort Meade wanting to know where students would be assigned next year.

"Some years around this time, we get dozens of calls," he said. "This was a pleasant experience."

Board of Education President Patricia Nalley said that district changes can bring fear, "but the Ferndale Early Childhood Development Center, our first development center, is such a remarkable place. I felt like we made a vote that is good for the children."

Students will be notified through the schools where they will be attending next school year, Yocum said.

"The greatest impact on relief of overcrowding will be seen at Manor View Elementary," he said. The school has a student capacity of 549 but currently has 608 students and is projected to have 778 by 2015 without the changes. With the redistricting, Manor View is expected to have 416 students for the next school year and 488 by 2015.

Similarly, West Meade has 399 students, well above its capacity of 292. It is projected to decrease to 383 by 2015. By turning it into an Early Childhood Center, the school would have 238 students next school year and is projected to have 248 by 2015. In fact, the closest any school would come to capacity by 2015 would be Manor View, which would be at 89 percent utilization.

The changes were deemed necessary as the county braces for an influx of residents from federal Base Realignment and Closure measures.

West Meade would join the county's Ferndale Early Education Center as the county's sole facilities servicing ECI, pre-K and kindergarten students, district officials have said.

"Pershing Hill is going to have the largest influx of students, but they'll be able to accommodate them easily. West Meade will have the Early Childhood Center, and there is still room for additional growth there," Yocum said.

The Board of Education's vote regarding maintenance of effort is in response to County Executive John R. Leopold's efforts to exempt the county from funding $15 million of the school system's $968 million budget. School systems are required by state law to spend as much per pupil during the coming fiscal year as they did the previous year. Leopold submitted the waiver request from the State Board of Education last week, marking it the first time that the county has sought exemption from so-called maintenance-of-effort requirements.

Nalley said county school board members believe the law is in place for a purpose. "But I also fully understand that the county is saying they don't have money," she said. "We'll find out what the results of the [waiver] request are. It's going to have a huge impact on our budget."

Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell had already voiced opposition to the county's request.

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