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Patterson Mill families ready to advocate ahead of community forums on redistricting Harford middle, high schools

Families in the Cedarday community southeast of Bel Air rallied at the beginning of this month to ensure their younger children could remain within the Homestead-Wakefield Elementary School attendance area, as Harford County Public Schools works through its year-long balancing enrollment process.

Multiple families spoke during the public comment portion of the May 1 Board of Education meeting, urging planners to reverse proposed boundary line changes that would mean their children attend different elementary schools, and their efforts paid off as communities in the Center South 7 change area were returned to the Homestead-Wakefield district.

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Those families, as well as their neighbors in the Fairway, Monarch Glen, Todd Lakes and Willow Chase subdivisions, have another fight on their hands, though, with the recent release of proposed changes to middle and high school attendance areas. Their older children, current students at Patterson Mill Middle-High School, would be reassigned to Southampton Middle and C. Milton Wright High School in Bel Air.

“The reason we bought our house is, we reverse engineered Patterson Mill to find our neighborhood,” said resident Kelly Elliott, whose family moved to Cedarday from Arizona three years ago.

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Elliott has three children — the youngest is in third grade at Homestead-Wakefield, the middle child is in sixth grade at Patterson Mill Middle and the oldest is in ninth grade at Patterson Mill High. Her oldest son would spend his junior and senior years at C. Milton Wright, based on the current proposed changes.

School system officials are seeking public comment as planners develop maps with new elementary, middle and high school attendance boundaries. Their proposal must be submitted to HCPS Superintendent Sean Bulson, who will seek additional public input once he receives it in September, and the school board will vote on a final plan next February. It would take effect in the 2022-23 school year.

A community input forum on elementary school changes happened in April, and two forums on proposed secondary school changes are scheduled for next week.

Both forums will be virtual. The first is set for 5 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 2, focusing on Aberdeen Middle and High School, Edgewood Middle and High School, Havre de Grace Middle and High School, North Harford Middle and High School, and Magnolia Middle and Joppatowne High School.

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The second forum is scheduled for 5 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 3, focusing on Bel Air Middle and High School, Fallston Middle and High School, Patterson Mill Middle and High School and Southampton Middle and C. Milton Wright High School. People can find more information, as well as submit questions, on the Balancing Enrollment page on the HCPS website.

Staffers with contractor FLO Analytics and their subcontractor, Bloom Planning, have divided Harford County into seven regions — North, East, Southeast, South, Center South, Center East and Center West. Those have been subdivided into smaller change areas, shifting groups of students from one elementary school to another to ease overcrowding in schools that are over their capacity and put more students in schools that are under capacity.

The same goal has been established for middle and high schools. Twelve change areas are proposed for secondary schools, with the greatest impact on students in the Bel Air and Fallston areas. The MHS-8 change area, which covers communities northeast of Bel Air, shows students who currently attend Southampton and C. Milton Wright being shifted to the North Harford schools.

Other Southampton and CMW students, whose families live east of Harford Community College, would be transferred to Aberdeen Middle and High School, according to change area MHS-9, which can be seen on the balancing enrollment interactive web map. The Aberdeen schools also would receive students from Havre de Grace Middle and High School who currently live along Route 155 in the MHS-10 change area.

Another large change area, MHS-2, affects families who live in the area roughly bounded by Singer Road to the north and I-95 to the south — with Joppatowne in between — and send their children to Fallston Middle and High School. Students in that area would go to Magnolia Middle and Joppatowne High School.

The MHS-4 change area affects Patterson Mill parents such as Elliott. That area is south of Wheel Road and east of the Bynum Run stream, with some parts going as far east as Route 543 and Cedar Lane Regional Park. Those students would transfer from Patterson Mill to Southampton and C. Millton Wright.

Patterson Mill is 2.5 miles from her family’s home, while Southampton is 6.5 miles and CMW is 7.5 miles away, according to Elliott. Her family looked at online reviews and rankings of Harford County schools when planning the move from Arizona, and Homestead-Wakefield and Patterson Mill had top rankings.

She said her children have “absolutely” received good educations there, that they are “both amazing schools with amazing teachers.”

The Elliotts and other Cedarday families plan to “come together as a neighborhood” and will make their voices heard at the community forums next week. People can find more information on the CedarDay Stays website.

“We are currently working together to come up with a united message to keep us, as a group, at Patterson Mill,” she said.

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