Getting their children into the Patapsco High School for the Arts, a magnet school in Baltimore County, was a dream come true, some Randallstown parents said.
But then came the reality. From the northwest corner of the county to the school near Dundalk, the journey can take their children as much as two and a half hours one way on public transportation.
And that, parents say, is unacceptable. A group of parents went to the school board this week requesting that there be a bus stop somewhere in the northwest area to take the 42 children who live there to the magnet school.
Tamathia Moore Flowers said her 10th-grade son applied to Carver School for the Arts in Towson and the Baltimore School for the Arts when he was in eighth grade hoping to pursue his interest in the performing arts. When he didn't get in, he went to his local zone high school, which was Randallstown. But Flowers said the school was a disappointment. With so many discipline and behavioral problems, she said, her son had difficulty concentrating. "After five weeks [of school], I was so horrified, I asked for a sit down meeting," she said.
Everything changed this year as a student at Patapsco. She said her son now enjoys school and calls her with excitement at the opportunities he is getting, such as being in the school play. She said she understands the county might not be able to help give transportation to just a few students, but she said the parents in the northwest area have come together and realized there are enough children to fill a bus. Most of the students, she said, would go to Carver if they had spots.
Each weekend, she said, a group of parents meet to map out the transportation plans for the coming week. She said they do some carpools, but they are arduous. She said it took her three hours to pick up her child and several other students from Patapsco, make it back to the other side of the county and then deliver all the students to their front door.
They can drive to Loch Raven to catch a bus to and from Patapsco, but she said most students are involved in after-school activities and so they don't get out of school until long after the afternoon bus has left.
Some afternoons her son will take two buses and the metro to get home, a journey that is hours long. He doesn't walk in the door until 7.
Some parents told the board they have hired private transportation, at a high cost, to take their kids to school. Others said they are on the verge of pulling their children out of Patapsco and putting them in their neighborhood school.
Flowers said they priced the cost of a private van service, and it would be $350 to $700 a month per student, depending on how many students they could get squeeze into one van. The cost was too high for most parents, she said.
Flowers said parents have made repeated calls to the transportation department, administrators and Superintendent Dallas Dance, but they have not gotten a resolution. She said administrators have reminded her that her son accepted a place knowing that transportation would not be provided. And they say that Milford Mill High School, which also has a performing arts program, is nearby. She said Milford does not have the full range of the arts that Patapsco and Carver have and she wonders whether more spaces could be made available at Carver to handle the large number of students in the northwest area interested in the arts. Students are selected for Carver based on their ability in the arts and their academics.
Wednesday, the school board's spokesman Mychael Dickerson issued this statement: "We appreciate the Randallstown area parents bringing their concerns to us and advocating for their children at last night's board meeting. Staff from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction will look at the information and suggestions presented, review the policies in place that would impact the request, and consider the equity and fairness to other magnet schools students and parents across the system."