The 2013-2014 school year began Monday, and Harford County Public Schools officials proceeded with their implementation of fees for playing sports and participating in extracurricular activities and their adjustments to school bus routes countywide.
A county councilman and some of his fellow citizens, however, are seeking ways to stop them from going further.
Councilman Dion Guthrie and fellow county citizens, incensed about the impact those fees and bus route consolidations will have on families with children attending Harford County Public Schools, are seeking legal means to stop them.
The bus changes and new fees were among a series of measures approved by the Board of Education in June to reconcile the budget for the current fiscal year, after the county council and county executive declined to approve about $20 million more in county aid sought by school officials.
On Monday, Guthrie discussed with the Abingdon Community Council the plan to bring legal action against the school board if it doesn't back down.
"We believe that's illegal," Guthrie said, as he encouraged residents of Abingdon to join those from his district in Edgewood and Joppatowne at the Tuesday meeting.
About 50 people, most of them parents, attended that meeting at the Sheriff's Office Southern Precinct Station to air their complaints about the school system's changes. Like a similar session last week, the meeting was hosted by the Edgewood Community Council.
Guthrie said the parents' comments would be recorded so a lawyer can ultimately contest the school board's decision in court. He did not say, however, who will be responsible for bringing the legal action or for paying for it.
Several parents at the meeting said their children face longer walks to bus stops or are finding it harder to take part in magnet programs because of the lack of accessible transportation, as they said they were promised.
Lisa Hebb, of Abingdon, said it is middle-class parents like her who will be affected by the changes.
Under the new bus stop consolidations to save money, Hebb said, two of her children have to walk on a busy street to Route 924 to get to Patterson High School and Middle School, wait in a grassy area next to electrical transformers and have no adult supervision while they wait. Hebb also said she will have to pay for her children to participate in sports and other activities.
"I feel as though I am being discriminated against," she said.
Guthrie and fellow council members Joe Woods and Dick Slutzky said they are on the parents' side, as did state Del. Mary-Dulany James and State Sen. Nancy Jacobs, all of whom attended.
"I think what is going on is wrong," Jacobs said, noting she has two grandchildren in Harford schools and a daughter who is a teacher. "I hope that we can move forward and make some changes."
James said cuts like the ones made by the board of education can jeopardize Maryland's standing as the top state for education.
"I am here to support you all with a step forward," James told the crowd.
Guthrie said parents should identify factors such as whether their children have to pass the homes of known sex offenders and whether they have to walk much farther than they did previously.
"It just boggles my mind," Guthrie said about the bus situation, calling it "horrendous."
He noted that many of his constituents in Edgewood are single mothers who cannot afford to pay for sports and a lot of residents do not have credit cards or easy access to computers, if they are required to pay online.
Slutzky pointed out that Maryland has no legislation that requires schools to provide bus transportation to anyone except special-education students.