Continuity a concern for parents at redistricting meeting

Redistricting is on the horizon for Howard County schools and it could start in the 2012-2013 academic year in the southeast region.

About 50 people attended the first of two community meetings Tuesday, Sept. 6, at Hammond High School to learn about first-round redistricting plans. The second meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at Centennial High School.

A concern echoed by several parents was that of continuity for their children. Scaggsville resident Michael Musser has two sons who attend Hammond Elementary School, one of the schools that could be redistricted in 2012, when his eldest son would be entering fifth grade.

If the current redistricting plan is approved, Musser said, his son would attend fifth grade at Fulton Elementary before moving up to Hammond Middle School, which might be redistricted in 2015. Then, Musser said, his son could be moved to Lime Kiln Middle School before finally moving up to Reservoir High School. Musser's son would attend five schools over the course of six years.

"Once you've moved on out of elementary school, you're back on the table for middle school (redistricting)," Musser said after the meeting. "We're talking about molding the minds and personalities of these students, by changing their educational environment so often. It's not fair to them."

Joel Galihue, manager of school planning, addressed similar concerns from other parents, who asked if their students would be redistricted more than once while in elementary school. Galihue said with certainty that students will only be redistricted at a certain level once.

"Board policy would not allow us to redistrict at one level more than once during the time period that child would matriculate through that level," he said. "No staff plan would ever recommend that."

School staff will present final recommendations on 2012 redistricting to the Howard County Board of Education at its meeting Oct. 20, which could include feedback from the two community meetings, and the recommendations of the Attendance Area Committee, comprised of citizens from each of the school system's six planning regions. The final recommendations would be made available in early October, Galihue said.

Following the staff's presentation to the board, the board will hold a public hearing Nov. 8 and work sessions Nov. 3, 10 and 15 if necessary. The goal, Galihue said, is for the board to make a decision by Thanksgiving.

Galihue reminded audience members that the same process — community meetings, feedback, public hearings, etc. — would be followed for subsequent redistricting. A second round of elementary school redistricting could occur in 2013, with the addition of a new elementary school in the northeastern region, and middle school redistricting would follow in 2015.

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