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Latest school redistricting proposal would shift fewer students

Renee Foose

The latest school redistricting proposal, presented to the county Board of Education Thursday night, was described by school officials as good, but not perfect.

"There is no perfect plan," said Joel Gallihue, manager of school planning. "We recognize that we may be given direction to look at other options, but we feel this is a good plan and accomplishes the initial goals that we were directed to look at."

The proposal looks a lot different from preliminary redistricting plans unveiled in June. While those initial plans, proposed by the school system staff, would have moved 2,866 students to different schools for the 2013-14 school year, the plan unveiled Thursday pared that number to 1,832 students.

That is direct result of Superintendent Renee Foose's Oct. 1 statement that the staff should "go back to the drawing board" when it came to redistricting and come up with a plan that moves fewer students and involves fewer schools.

The primary goals of the redistricting, Gallihue said Thursday, are to balance capacity in East Columbia schools, balance capacity at Veterans Elementary in Ellicott City and move students to accommodate the opening of a new elementary school in Elkridge, on Ducketts Lane.

All told, 17 schools would be affected under the new redistricting plan, to varying degrees. Some schools will only receive students, others will only send students and some will do both.

One school included in the proposal will actually do neither: In West Friendship, an area set to be added to the local elementary school's district currently has no students living in it.

Under the proposal, the new elementary school in Elkridge will draw students from Bellows Springs, Elkridge, Rockburn and Waterloo elementary schools.

Veterans would send students to Hollifield Station and Waverly elementary schools, even though Waverly's district doesn't bump up against Veterans'. An earlier plan drafted by the committee, made up of staff and citizens, had proposed moving some students from Veterans to St. John's Lane Elementary School, but that school is not part of the final proposal.

"We were thinking about non-contiguous attending areas," Gallihue said. "There's a substantial portion of students assigned to schools, and bussed anyway, that when you put (the areas) on the map, it doesn't look right ... but you see it's like a constellation, and (neighborhoods) aren't always distributed around schools."

If students are being bussed to a school, those areas are more easily assigned to a different school, Gallihue said.

Also absent from the final proposal are several schools included in the committee's draft plan, known as L10, which included 25 schools and affected 2,657 students. Those schools were Longfellow, Clemens Crossing, Clarksville, Manor Woods, Pointers Run, Swansfield and Triadelphia Ridge elementary schools.

Other schools that would be affected by the redistricting include: Deep Run, Ilchester, Jeffers Hill, Northfield, Phelps Luck, Stevens Forest, Talbott Springs and Thunder Hill elementary schools.

Foose directed the committee to come up with a new plan after several community meetings had been held to present the L10 plan, which featured a sort of domino effect, shifting students westward into under-enrolled schools through other districts.

Foose gave the committee two weeks to come up with something new.

"(The committee was) brought back together on short notice, and that being said, they were pretty effective in using the time they had," Gallihue said. "There are sketches, and there are masterpieces, and this was their first cut (at some of the ideas)."

A series of public hearings and work sessions on the proposal are scheduled, the first on Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. in the board room of the Department of Education, in Ellicott City.

The proposal may be seen at hcpss.org/boundarylines, and feedback may be provided through the public hearing process, or by emailing boe@hcpss.org.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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