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Redistricting plan would ease one school’s crowding, put another just above capacity

The Baltimore County Board of Education will consider a redistricting plan for two Towson-area elementary schools that will reduce some crowding at one, but leave both schools slightly above the state-rated capacity.

The plan, initiated because of overcrowding at Pleasant Plains Elementary School in east Towson, would shift 100 students to Hampton Elementary School, across Interstate 695 in Lutherville-Timonium.

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The move would leave Pleasant Plains, currently at 125% capacity, at 106%. Hampton, which is currently at 85% of its state-rated capacity, would get to 101%.

The plan comes out of a boundary study that was initiated in September. A committee of parents and teachers from area schools considered different boundary plans that could move students among Hampton, Pleasant Plains and Halstead Academy, another elementary school nearby in Parkville. The plan the committee voted to recommend would not change the boundaries for Halstead Academy.

The school system initiated the boundary study because Pleasant Plains was 135 students over capacity as of Sept. 30, 2019, 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.

At a board of education meeting on Feb. 11, multiple people spoke about the proposed plan.

County Councilman Wade Kach, who represents the 3rd District, which includes Hampton, said the plan is “inadequate” for future population growth in the county. He presented his own plan to the board, which would move students among Pleasant Planes, Hampton and Cromwell Valley Elementary School, which was not included in the boundary study.

Colleen Baldwin, who spoke at the meeting and is the parent of a Pleasant Plains student, said the option presented to the board was the best “short-term” plan. She said Pleasant Plains needs “substantial relief, right now” because the building is out of space.

The Hampton Elementary community launched a petition that has garnered just under 500 signatures and presents yet another alternative plan for the board to consider. The petition says the community is concerned the boundary change will become “permanent and BCPS will move on from this problem, assuming it has been adequately addressed.”

The petition calls for a plan to add capacity at Pleasant Plains through capital investment, not just boundary changes.

Lindsey Culli, a Hampton Elementary parent, sat on the boundary change committee but did not speak at the Feb. 11 school board meeting. While she voted for the plan recommended to the board, she said she thinks the whole process has been “short-sighted."

“There’s no question that Pleasant Plains is really in a situation where they need some kind of relief. But it’s my opinion that even if Hampton absorbed 200 students next year, Pleasant Plains is going to be in the exact same boat, because their numbers keep rising,” Culli said.

A public hearing about the plan, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 26 at Loch Raven High School, is the second-to-last step of the monthslong boundary change process. After the public hearing, the school board is scheduled to vote on the boundary change at its March 10 meeting.

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