Editorial: RSCC on right track, but some future costs seemingly unavoidable

The Redistricting and School Closure Committee seems to be closing in getting to the meat of their work, after months of fact and information gathering. At its most recent meeting June 14, a pair of subcommittees reported on educational models and grade configurations, as well as school boundaries and closure options.

Unsurprisingly, no magical solution has emerged from the subcommittees’ work, but it does give the RSCC some good information to build on.


Again, though, we’re concerned the committee isn’t sure what its priorities should be, thanks to the very broad parameters given by the Board of Education before the group started its work. And those priorities will differ depending upon who you ask.

From the listening sessions held in April and May, the key takeaway from residents was “don’t break up our community.” Of course, that may mean different things to different people as well. When North Carroll High School was closed, a majority of the students were kept together but moved to Manchester Valley High. That seemed to be of little solace to the Hampstead community.

Perhaps the best way to interpret that is to start with cleaning up feeder patterns from elementary to middle and high schools. This was, after all, considered a top priority among parents once upon a time, when a facility utilization study by MGT of America was completed in 2013 to address, among other things: “actions for the most effective and efficient use of capital resources while containing expenses.”

The MGT study noted “Feeder patterns from elementary to middle to high school that are confusing … impact student relationships.” We suspect that, other than closing a school that may serve as a community hub — something the Board of Education explicitly directed the RSCC not to do — this is what parents are talking about when they express concern about breaking up school communities.

Presumably, cleaning up these feeder patterns is still a goal of the school system. Perhaps in the process of redistricting to do so, under-utlized schools will emerge and can be considered for closure and capital savings.

Regarding future capital expenses, based on the early work being done by the subcommittee, it’s difficult to see a path forward that doesn’t involve a major renovation or a new middle school built in the Westminster area. Quite simply, there are too many students in the densely packed county seat. Taking the aging East Middle School offline without some sort of replacement or addition elsewhere is simply not possible, based on the subcommittee’s report, given the current grade configurations.

However, grade reconfiguration remains a potential solution. In particular, moving sixth-graders into the elementary schools may free up space that currently isn’t available at the middle school level. This option has yet to be fully vetted, however, so it may not be a panacea either.

This meeting was a good step for the RSCC, which still has a momentous task in front of it and much work to do if it is to stay on track to present recommendations and options to the Board of Education in September. It seems to be becoming more clear, though, that redistricting and even closures will not result in some incredible windfall nor will it eliminate the need for capital expenditures in the near future to address the school system’s aging infrastructure.