There's no redistricting plan or even proposal yet on the table, but that didn't deter the residents of communities just south of Stoneleigh to turn up at last night's Baltimore County school board meeting to protest any attempt to redistrict them south.
Wearing bright blue T-shirts with the name of their communities - Idlewylde and Loch Hill, several dozen people came to make a pre-emptive strike against any thought of moving their children from Stoneleigh Elementary to Halstead Academy.
"Our main reasons for concern at this point are the geographic proximity to Halstead and its reputation of having open seats. It seems to us that these factors lend themselves to a decision to move Idlewylde and/or Loch Hill to the Halstead Academy district. Halstead Academy's history of poor performance is what is causing our residents such concern," said Duncan Scott Keir, who lives in Idlewylde.
A number of residents spoke during the public comment section of the meeting, saying that they had purchased modest houses in the neighborhood to get into the Stoneleigh school district. Their children would attend Stoneleigh Elementary, Dumbarton Middle and Towson High School. This year, the county will be redistricting lines in the crowded York Road corridor because a new 700-seat elementary school is being built to accommodate the growth in the area. This comes after an addition to Stoneleigh and the opening of West Towson Elementary in 2010, and it is already overflowing.
"Our entire home search was defined by the Stoneleigh school district. Our first and only real concern is our son's education," said Oliver Higgs. He said his family would move if the community was redistricted. "It would be devastating for us financially."
The residents said they believe that their property values would decline if the lines were moved. More than 95 percent of Stoneleigh students passed Maryland State Assessments in all subjects and grades. In addition, more than 50 percent scored in the advanced level. Halstead students had pass rates between 76 percent and 88 percent with a much smaller percentage in the advanced category.
The school system issued a statement saying that redistricting will occur given the need for 500 additional seats in the central area and the building of the new Mays Chapel school. In addition, the statement said: "The redistricting process will be open and transparent and will involve the community. The redistricting process in the central area to help resolve overcrowding will begin in September. In the meantime, we place new information about overcrowding relief initiatives on the What’s Happening section of the BCPS website."