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Board hears second boundary option for new Mays Chapel school

Todd Huff

The Baltimore County Board of Education on Tuesday heard a brief presentation on a second redistricting option for the new elementary school under construction in Mays Chapel before the board votes on the school's boundaries on March 25.

The presentation was the next-to-last step in a lengthy redistricting process that has brought out residents from throughout central Baltimore County to urge their preferences regarding their children's schools.

A redistricting committee, composed of parents, staff, and principals of 10 elementary schools along the York Road corridor met from October to January to formulate new boundaries to fill the 700-seat Mays Chapel Elementary, which will open in August.

At the committee's final meeting on Jan. 6, members whittled down four options to two, and then selected a final recommendation. Before the final vote, they were told both options — A1 and B1 — would be presented to Superintendent Dallas Dance and the Board of Education.

Option B1, which would take students from Padonia International, Pinewood, Pot Spring and Warren elementaries and stretches as far east as Fox Hollow Golf Course, won the committee's vote, 11-10.

Option A1 would take students from Lutherville Lab, Padonia International, Pinewood, Pot Spring and Riderwood elementaries, but largely stays west of York Road. It also moves students from Timonium Elementary to Hampton Elementary.

President Lawrence Schmidt had said at a previous meeting that board members were individually briefed on both options A1 and B1. But only Option B1, the committee's choice, was formally presented to the board at its Feb. 11 meeting.

Opponents of that boundary scenario took exception, citing the fact that the redistricting committee was told the board would hear and consider both options. During several school meetings, the board heard extensive public comment from parents of students at Pot Spring, Pinewood, Hampton and West Towson elementaries, as well as those parents of students districted for the Mays Chapel school, all of whom lobbied to get Option A1 publicly presented.

As a result, Schmidt delayed the board's vote from March 11 to March 25 so that A1 could be presented Tuesday.

On Tuesday, consultant Matthew Cropper, who led the redistricting committee, presented Option A1 to the board.

Several speakers in support of each option gave testimony, with dozens more not selected to speak in the random 10-person public comment drawing.

While the Feb. 11 presentation on B1 included extensive background on the process, a list of advantages for Option B1 and elicited several questions from the board, by comparison, the Option A1 presentation was brief, citing only the corresponding statistics on building utilization and diversity. The board had no questions.

To speak on their behalf, Option A1 proponents had enlisted 3rd District County Councilman Todd Huff and Del. Wade Kach of District 7, who is running for Huff's councilmanic seat.

Supporters of Option B1, who mostly hailed from the Riderwood Elementary community, said Riderwood did not need the relief provided by that option and urged the school board to follow the committee's recommendation.

Towson school advocate Cathi Forbes, whose child was redistricted from Rodgers Forge Elementary to West Towson Elementary when it opened in 2010, said the board should vote on what is best for all students not just those advocating for their own school.

"Mays Chapel will be another gem of a school," Forbes said. "To the parents in the room, the sky will not fall if your child changes schools."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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