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Baltimore County school board approves redistricting plan for two Towson-area elementary schools

The Baltimore County Board of Education approved Tuesday night a redistricting plan for two Towson-area elementary schools as a stopgap measure to address overcrowding in the region.

The plan will move about 100 students from the overcrowded Pleasant Plains Elementary School in east Towson across Interstate 695 to Hampton Elementary School in Lutherville-Timonium in the upcoming academic year. The plan adjusts Pleasant Plains, currently at 125% capacity, to about 106%. Hampton, which is at 85% of its state-rated capacity, will get to 101%.

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Before the school board’s vote on a resolution, several county school board members acknowledged that the move was an imperfect solution to a problem that will need long-term considerations. Russell Kuehn and Lisa Mack voted against the measure.

“I don’t think we have the luxury of a short-term solution anymore, but I know that Pleasant Plains needs relief,” Mack said during the meeting.

Kuehn called the overcrowding at Pleasant Plains “outrageous” but felt the plan to move students would not go far enough to fix the problem.

“My concern is that we’re not really solving anything and we keep using terms like ‘short term’ but we all know this isn’t short term," he said during the meeting.

The decision follows a boundary study conducted by a committee of parents and teachers from area schools who considered different plans that could move students among Hampton, Pleasant Plains and Halstead Academy, another elementary school nearby in Parkville. Some board members and parents were critical of the study, pointing out that it did not review some schools near to Pleasant Plains such as Cromwell Valley Elementary Magnet School.

The school system initiated the boundary study because Pleasant Plains was 135 students over capacity as of Sept. 30 and is projected to see more growth. While Pleasant Plains is surrounded by multiple elementary schools that could be involved in a boundary change process, Halstead Academy and Hampton Elementary were the only two schools involved in the boundary change, because the other surrounding schools were already at or above capacity.

Members of the public spoke at the meeting both in favor of and against the plan. Some asked the board to reject the plan on the grounds that it failed to account for a new nearby housing development’s potential to overload Hampton Elementary.

“Hampton may not be the utopia that Pleasant Plains parents are hoping it will be," Laura Houliaras said during the public comment portion of the meeting.

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Jessie Jaeger agreed Pleasant Plains is in immediate need, but implored the board to consider Cromwell Valley Elementary to “share the burden of this overcrowding issue.”

“Yes, please send kids from Pleasant Plains to Hampton, but Cromwell Valley must be utilized and we need a real plan moving forward," Jaeger said.

Jennifer Weaver, whose daughter is in third grade at Pleasant Plains, said the plan needed to be implemented and accepted. Weaver urged residents to engage with the Baltimore County Council and County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. to prevent rapid development that could overwhelm school capacities.

“It’s unfortunate that this process has to help some kids at the potential detriment to others, but this change also has the potential for kids to be happier and safer,” she said. “Hampton is rightly worried that Towson-area development will rapidly inflate their population and the board has no control over that.”

Before the vote, board chair Kathleen Causey said the school system had also released Tuesday an overview of a 10-year capital improvements strategy, which includes plans for the school system and county government to hire a consultant to develop a long-term approach for identifying and prioritizing capital improvements to schools.

Baltimore Sun Media reporter Cody Boteler contributed to this article.

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