www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-county/towson/ph-tt-mays-chapel-committee-0108-20140107,0,728099.story

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Committee picks scenario for new Timonium school

Calls for leaving Riderwood Elementary untouched, taking students for Mays Chapel from farther west

By Jon Meoli, jmeoli@tribune.com

9:06 AM EST, January 7, 2014

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The committee charged with drawing boundaries for the new elementary school in Mays Chapel as well as adjusting boundaries to relieve overcrowding in the York Road corridor decided Monday night on a final recommendation to present to Baltimore County Public School officials.

"I think it went really well," Committee Chairman Michael Quinn, a Pot Spring Elementary parent, said after the meeting held at Cockeysville Middle. "The evolution from where we started 12 weeks ago was very positive."

Ultimately, the committee chose an option that draws students for the new school from the west side of York Road and northern Cockeysville while condensing other school zones, including Pot Spring, Padonia, Lutherville, Pinewood and Timonium.

The final vote was decided by just one vote, something Quinn said reflected well on the options created. 

"It was difficult for people to decide, I think, because the vote was so close," Quinn said. "I think that — as much as anything — says the committee did a good job."

The process, however, was not without its flaws.

The committee voted at its fourth meeting, held Nov. 20, on a set of options to bring to a community information meeting the following month. But BCPS regulations for redistricting state that principals are nonvoting members of the committee, so those results were thrown out because principals had voted.

Matthew Cropper, president of Cropper GIS, the consulting firm that ran the meetings, used the resultant extra time to review the selected options with school officials. Officials took issue with the building utilization and levels of student diversity.

A new set of four options was drawn up to ensure the new school in Mays Chapel opens at above 80-percent capacity and that all schools maintained their diversity. Those four options were presented to the committee on Dec. 11 and then to the public at a community information meeting the next day.

BCPS then offered an online survey for residents to give feedback, the results of which were delivered to the committee after the survey closed Dec. 19. Each option was scored on a scale of "approve" to "disapprove," with the option to elaborate on each vote. 

Two minor changes were made to each plan after the feedback session, and the committee had no issue with the changes when they were presented.

Some options scored better than others, but the committee was told in a report not to consider the "approve" numbers as much as whether any relevant information regarding the criteria was missed. The report said that increased participation from a particular school could skew the data toward what that population wanted.

At the meeting, Cropper explained the results to the committee before they graded each option one final time.

The four options the committee chose Monday fall into two groupings: Option A and Option D, which take students from Riderwood for the school in Mays Chapel and doesn't stretch far east of York Road to fill the new school; and Option B and Option C, which leave Riderwood untouched and thus stretch farther east of York Road to fill the new school.

The committee chose one of each from both of those groupings, then selected a final recommendation to be presented to Superintendent Dallas Dance and ultimately, the Board of Education. 

Cropper said Option A defeated Option D by a wide margin, but Option B defeated Option C by a vote of 11-10. Between those two, Option B was chosen, again, by one vote.

To see how the options selected affect each neighborhood, go to http://www.croppermap.com/bcpsredistricting.

Cropper stressed that, though the committee has already decided on them, the options are drafts and can be changed by various levels of the BCPS administration before the Board of Education votes on them.

The recommendations will be provided to Dance on Monday, Jan. 13, and introduced to the Board of Education at its Feb. 11 meeting. A public hearing on the recommendations before the board will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 26, and the board will vote on a final product March 11.