The Carroll County Board of Education will meet Wednesday to continue discussion on proposed school redistricting options for the southern portion of the county, focusing on schools in the Sykesville and Eldersburg region.
The school board will meet with the Southern Area Redistricting Committee at 6 p.m., Wednesday, at the school board office, 125 N. Court St., Westminster. The meeting will be livestreamed at https://www.carrollk12.org/board-of-education.
The redistricting committee, made up of nine Carroll County Public Schools parents from schools “anticipated to be impacted by the committee recommendations,” as well as CCPS staff and Carroll County government staff, was formed in January to make recommendations to balance enrollment and school capacity for all schools in the region.
On Aug. 31 the committee published an 84-page report and discussed its suggestions with the school board. The committee’s priorities were to move as few students as possible, to maintain or improve school feeder patterns, to minimize the impacts on special programs, and to minimize the need for additional buses.
Three options were presented during the Aug. 31 meeting. Option 1 would impact 18 schools, including schools outside the southern region, and about 1,095 students. It involves significant bus route and school start time changes for 60% of students.
Option 2 would impact 15 schools and 697 students and includes plans for classroom additions at five elementary schools as well as Sykesville Middle School. About 30% of students would be impacted by a school start time change.
Option 3 would increase the overall capacity at southern area schools, impacting 16 schools and 925 students. It involves longer bus rides for some students and building additions at three elementary and two middle schools.
Jon O’Neal, assistant superintendent of operations at CCPS, asked the school board to consider a list of items when discussing the redistricting options. These included the level of redistricting needed to resolve overcrowding, the extent of building additions the board would be willing to approve at some schools, the importance of maintaining or improving school feeder patterns, and the impacts of school start time changes on families.
For example, in some of the options studied, students are redistricted from Eldersburg Elementary School, which starts at 7:45 a.m., to Mechanicsville Elementary School in Sykesville, which begins at 9:30 a.m., resulting in a school starting time change of 1 hour and 45 minutes. “School start time changes pose significant challenges for many families related to day care, work schedules, and other family considerations,” the committee acknowledged in the report.
O’Neal asked the board to be mindful of all of the options and their impacts and said their advice would help Superintendent Cynthia McCabe and staff develop a final recommendation to the board later this fall.
“If you, the Board of Education, feel like we wouldn’t be interested in capital additions right now, or at least not as part of this process, knowing that makes it much easier to determine which option goes out to public hearing on Sept. 21,” O’Neal said.
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Board of Education members agreed at the Aug. 31 work session that they needed more time to consider options before making their recommendation to the superintendent on which option to pursue.
“I think there’s too many moving parts right now and we need to talk about it more,” school board member Marsha Herbert said. “I can’t vote on any of those three [options]. There’s stuff I don’t like in any of them. ... This is a hard thing to do.”
Discussions will continue Wednesday. Once a final plan is approved, parents and students affected by the new boundaries will be notified in December. Potential boundary changes could take place as soon as the 2023-2024 school year.
Commissioner President Ed Rothstein of Sykesville, who represents District 5, attended the first work session and said the community feels “overall frustrated that they were not listened to for a long time” regarding population growth and housing development approvals in the region, which led to crowding in the region’s schools.
The redistricting plan was initiated in September 2019, in response to recommendations in the school system’s 2019-2028 Educational Facilities Master Plan. At that time a Freedom Elementary Redistricting Committee was convened to address overcrowding at that school. The COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns in March 2020 suspended the committee’s planning. In December 2021, the Board of Education approved then-Superintendent Steve Lockard’s plan to reinstitute the redistricting committee and refocus on the entire southern region of the county.