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Letter: Harford schools’ redistricting plan seems designed to shuffle some students for no reason | READER COMMENTARY

Of the seven “guiding principles” the Harford County Public Schools are using to “balance enrollment,” they omitted what should have been the first one: Do no harm.

Quite the contrary, the preliminary plan for the elementary schools in the county seems designed to move as many children as possible from one school to another. Even in rural sectors with land preservation and minor development, communities whose schools are well under capacity are slated to be moved so everyone can be at the same mythical benchmark. The plan is still preliminary, but its approach is astonishing: time and again, students are moved from one school to be replaced by students being moved in from another school. It’s as if the out-of-state redistricting consultants received a bonus for how many children could be displaced.

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My own community, now on its fourth elementary school in 35 years, is penciled to be moved to yet another school, Abingdon Elementary. The “rebalancing” would actually send that school over-capacity to 107% by the plan consultant’s own estimates. When that is pointed out, the consultants say, don’t worry, our estimates have that school under 100% a few years later? Why? Who knows? If anything, past redistricting has taught Harford County that the future estimates aren’t always on the money and underutilized schools have remained that way despite past attempts at “balancing.”

Parent emotions at a community forum were as vehement as a “virtual forum” could be with pre-selected comments in a chat window. The commitment these families have for their schools and their neighborhoods is the best thing about Harford County. School administrators should not view parents’ emotions as overheated or under-informed. The parents at the meeting actually seemed to have the more sober plan of action: If a particular school such as Homestead-Wakefield Elementary is overcrowded, use portables while an overdue expansion is pursued.

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The county school administration’s overblown strategy reminds me of a dance craze from my own school days: Do the shuffle.

ANDREW RATNER

Abingdon

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