The Redistricting and School Closure Committee continued working its way through possible options Thursday night, primarily focusing on comprehensive redistricting and weighing planning objectives from the school board.
“I think we’re getting to a very critical stage in our process,” the committee’s paid facilitator David Lever told the group.
The committee was convened to investigate, develop and present multiple options related to comprehensive redistricting and school closures to the Carroll County Public Schools Board of Education and the superintendent this fall.
RSCC is composed of five parents; two members of the business community; one member of county government; two school system employee group representatives; three members of the CCPS staff; and Lever, the former executive director of a nonpartisan state agency.
Two weeks ago at the June 28 meeting, the committee went through a number of possible options, from doing nothing to closing one school to changing grade configurations and more. This week, the concept of comprehensive redistricting was the focus of the conversation, with many committee members asking what the purpose of doing so would be.
Lever said the pros of comprehensive redistricting would be balancing utilization, possible cleaner feeder patterns, possible cost efficiencies and preserved flexibility for future increases or decreases of enrollment.
Cons, he said, include significant disruption, potential disruption of communities, possible significant resistance from the community, a lot of time required to study the options, requirement of renovations to support changes and possible school closures.
Mike Hardesty, director of transportation for Carroll County Public Schools, said in talking about comprehensive redistricting, it’s important to consider the school board’s parameters. The BOE said redistricting should only come with a comprehensive solution, like closures or grade reconfigurations to increase efficiencies.
Hardesty said he couldn’t say if comprehensive redistricting could help those things without studying it, which would take a long time.
“That’s the tough one,” he said.
Ray Prokop, director of the CCPS Facilities Management Department, said while CCPS hasn’t done comprehensive redistricting in a long time, they do look at enrollment projections every year and make recommendations if there are significant problems.
“It’s not a typical thing that happens in this county,” he said of needing to make yearly changes.
Lever said as a committee they’ve heard there’s a need for comprehensive redistricting, but the question of why still remains, something Margaret Pfaff, the CCPS director of curriculum and instructional resources, echoed.
“What compelling reason have we established for comprehensive redistricting?” she asked.
“What problem are we trying to solve?”
Hardesty said there’s often discussion in the community that students should be attending the school that is geographically closest to them, and parents think comprehensive redistricting will solve that problem.
But, he said, that’s a hard concept, because sometimes based on boundaries and how populated an area is, there may not be room for a student at the school that is geographically closest to them.
“There’s only so much room that a school can take in,” he said.
By the end of the discussion, many committee members leaned away from the concept of comprehensive redistricting.
“If there isn’t a purpose, I don’t think we should just redistrict everybody,” Rosemary Kitzinger, a parent of a Runnymede Elementary School student who was nominated by the Special Education Citizens’ Advisory Committee, said.
Christina McGann, a parent of a Shiloh Middle School student, also presented an idea. She suggested closing East Middle School and putting the seventh- and eighth-grade students from both East and West middle schools into the current West Middle School. From there, sixth-graders would be split among Sandymount and William Winchester elementary schools, which would become third- through sixth-grade schools. The students in kindergarten through second grade at Sandymount and William Winchester would be redistricted to other elementary schools in the area, she said.
CPS Facilities Planner Bill Cain brought up concerns with the concept, because he said he didn’t know if all of the students would fit into the buildings in this configuration. Plus, he said, this plan would add another transition for students.
The committee also spent time Thursday night weighing different planning objectives.
Lever, at the end of the more than three-hour meeting, said there are still too many options that the RSCC needs to begin whittling down.
He also said he believes whatever options are presented to the school board will be conceptual only, and the expectation for them to be anything else is “unrealistic.”
“It can’t possibly be done in this time,” he said, later adding “We have to work with what we’ve got.”