The day before a protest was scheduled to occur in Columbia about the ongoing school redistricting process, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball released his first statement on the redistricting proposal.

“We need thoughtful, comprehensive redistricting that will help foster the best teaching and learning environment for our children and educators,” Ball said in a statement Friday.

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Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano presented a recommendation plan last month for comprehensive redistricting to combat school overcrowding, address inequities in the distribution of students affected by poverty and establish a road map for the eventual opening of the county’s 13th high school.

Martirano is recommending moving nearly 7,400 students to different schools for the 2020-21 academic year. There are nearly 57,400 students enrolled in the school system.

Ball said he is “appreciative” of Martirano’s efforts to address overcrowding in schools and he is “confident … a plan will be produced that values the importance of socioeconomic diversity while keeping communities together, to the extent possible."

Community members have been vocal about the recommendation, with many in opposition.

An opposition walk to the proposal is set to take place Saturday on the public sidewalks surrounding The Mall in Columbia. The walk begins at noon and is expected to last an hour.

Tuesday marks the beginning of three school board public hearings on Martirano’s recommendation. The county school board is set to approve a plan on Nov. 21.

The three public hearings are broken down into regions. Region one is for all families currently attending Centennial, Howard, Mt. Hebron and Oakland Mills high schools, plus their respective feeder middle and elementary schools.

The Sept. 24 hearing is for families whose children attend Atholton, Hammond, Long Reach, Wilde Lake high schools, or any of their feeder schools. The final hearing on Sept. 27 is Glenelg, Marriotts Ridge, Reservoir and River Hill families and their feeder schools.

All hearings begin at 7 p.m.

While Ball cannot vote on the redistricting plan, he said, “Given its overall impact on our county, and as a father with two daughters in our public schools, please know I will continue to closely monitor the process.”

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