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Howard County school board approves redistricting plan

By Sara Toth, stoth@tribune.com

9:06 AM EST, November 16, 2012

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The county Board of Education Thursday night approved a redistricting plan that would move 1,860 elementary school students to new schools next year.

The plan, approved by a vote of 5-2, with board members Brian Meshkin and Cindy Vaillancourt voting against it, was an eleventh-hour creation, put together during the board's Tuesday work session and drawing on elements of Superintendent Renee Foose’s plan and another created by the attendance area committee over the course of several months.

The 1,860 students are about 1,000 fewer than originally proposed by school system staff in the feasibility student presented in June, and about 30 more than in Foose’s plan, presented to the board Oct. 18.

That plan was put together on short notice after Foose directed staff to go back to the drawing board to create a more “student-centric” plan that caused the least disruption to the fewest students.

Throughout the redistricting process, said Joel Gallihue, manger of school planning, the goals have been to balance capacity in East Columbia, relieve an over-crowded Veterans Elementary and open the new elementary school on Ducketts Lane in Elkridge.

With the final plan, 17 elementary schools are affected:

Over the course of four work sessions and the meeting, the board discussed about a dozen different iterations of the proposal, including a suggestion made by Meshkin to focus only on relieving an overcrowded Veterans and opening the new elementary school.

During Tuesday’s work session, Foose said she was committed to exploring ways to cure overcrowding and unbalanced capacity within three years.

Aside from Meshkin’s suggestion, which was rejected by the board, two plans were left standing for vote and discussion Thursday.

When asked by board member Allen Dyer which of those two plans she preferred, Foose reminded the board that she had presented how own plan to them.

“Now you’re asking to choose which of your plans is the best departure from my plan,” she said, adding that the issue was one of philosophy. “Your philosophy will guide the future of what redistricting will look like.”