The Carroll County Board of Education decided not to rush the process of redistricting this week and instead will vote to request studies of two Sykesville schools, to give the school board more information.
School board members all agreed Wednesday during a work session that after hearing concerns from residents of the southern portion of the county on possible school redistricting there, it was better to move more slowly. The board canceled a scheduled Sept. 21 public hearing on the school redistricting options, and instead will consider conducting feasibility studies.
“Now is not the time to go forward with redistricting,” school board member Marsha B. Herbert said. “Families moved here for a specific reason. They moved here because they wanted to go to those schools. We have heard that over and over and over again from our emails.”
During the work session, staff presented information to the board on Freedom Elementary School and Sykesville Middle School, including an estimated cost for conducting two feasibility studies at the schools. The studies would cost $100,000 each, school officials said, and results would be available next spring.
The school board will vote on whether to commission the two studies on Wednesday, during its regular meeting. The meeting will be livestreamed at https://www.carrollk12.org/board-of-education.
A study of Freedom Elementary would determine if an addition can be built there. Freedom sits on 9.64 acres and was built in 1955. Additions were added in 1963, 1964, 1975 and 2009.
“Freedom is not a large site, but it’s not that an addition can’t be built there,” O’Neal said. “It needs a feasibility study.”
Sykesville Middle is on 17.6 acres and was built in 1932. Additions were added in 1949, 1957, 1984 and 2000. A study would determine if new additions could be constructed on the site.
“I think the feasibility study seems to be the next best step for us to take, because I think that can answer some of the questions that we certainly have,” board member Patricia S. Dorsey said.
School board member Tara Battaglia said she agreed that the process should not be rushed.
Both Battaglia and Dorsey are running for reelection in November.
Board President Kenneth Kiler said, though he supported doing a feasibility study, he was not sure that the school board should avoid choosing a redistricting option.
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“We don’t do anything, we’re wasting time,” Kiler said. “The problem is the Freedom and Sykesville area. We need to look at it. If we don’t start the process, it could push it later than . I think we need to make a decision and keep moving. ... I just think we need to get the process moving and get things moving.”
The Southern Area 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.