Advertisement
Howard County Times
Howard County

Elkridge resident calls school redistricting process a ‘dumpster fire’ that will negatively affect the community

Several Elkridge residents voiced discontent with Superintendent Michael Martirano’s proposed Howard County public schools redistricting plan during a public hearing Wednesday night.

The hearing was meant for members of the public to share their thoughts on the superintendent’s proposed plans. Officials did not directly respond to any of the testimony Wednesday.

Advertisement

Martirano’s Proposed Attendance Area Adjustment Plan would reassign 2,555 high school students 46 middle school students next fall in anticipation of the opening of high school 13 in Jessup. Nearly 1,000 students in the northeast part of the county would be moved from Long Reach and Howard high schools to the new high school, a move parents said would further fracture the Elkridge community and lead to a difficult commute down Route 1.

“You on the board have been handed a proverbial dumpster fire,” parent Meg Ricks said during her testimony. “I implore you to do the work to try to put that fire out rather than just chucking it into eastern Elkridge and hoping for the best.

Advertisement

“If you must go with an Elkridge to Jessup plan, you need to start knocking down the state’s door to improve traffic safety on Route 1.”

The proposed plan is based largely on Scenario D, one of four redistricting scenarios presented June 9 by Cooperative Strategies, an education planning firm that conducted a feasibility study on redistricting for Howard County Public Schools.

Several parents argued Wednesday that the plan failed to adhere to tenets of HCPSS Policy 6010, which governs the processes by which school attendance area adjustments occur. The policy states that redistricting should promote a sense of community in both the geographic place and promotion of students through school levels by “maintaining contiguous communities or neighborhoods.”

“I would like to clarify that I have no problem with a move,” said Laura Wisely, who lives in the northeast corner of Elkridge. “I have a problem with breaking up the community that we are desperately trying to establish in our area that lacks infrastructure. If you’re going to move us, move us together, so we as neighbors can compensate for a lack of infrastructure.”

Speakers testified about a lack of adequate sidewalks, bus routes and community centers in the area, factors they said would be exacerbated by forcing Elkridge students to commute to the southeast part of Howard County.

Howard County Times: Top stories

Howard County Times: Top stories

Weekdays

Daily highlights from Howard County's number one source for local news.

Another repeated criticism was the plan’s reassignment of 66 students from Howard High School to Long Reach, by far the smallest school-to-school transfer of the proposal.

“Transferring 532 kids from Howard High school to high school 13 will certainly impact overcrowding concerns,” testified Beth Werner, the parent of a Howard freshman. “But moving 66 from Howard to Long Reach doesn’t seem like it would make that big of a difference to overcrowding. It’s not fair to move such a relatively small number of kids because any benefit to the schools will be lost in the lack of community stability.”

Throughout their testimonies, residents stressed the wide-ranging effects switching schools can have on children’s development, particularly coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Advertisement

“The kids aren’t just numbers, with each child having a story of their own,” said Mary Fisher, a parent of two Mount Hebron students. “These kids will be impacted in different and sometimes detrimental ways by the redistricting when they’re moved in the course of their high school.”

Martirano presented his redistricting proposal to the Board of Education on Sept. 1. It is now up to the board to make any necessary adjustments and solicit public feedback. As part of the process, the board is hosting a series of public hearings and work sessions, which can be attended in person or watched via livestream.

The next public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 14, with an optional hearing set for Oct. 19. Public work sessions on redistricting all begin at 4 p.m., and are scheduled for Sept. 21, 28; Oct. 3, 13, 27; Nov. 2 and 14.

Community members must register to testify at a public hearing and also may submit written testimony. The public may attend work sessions, but not participate in them. Adoption of new boundaries for the 2023-24 school year must occur by Nov. 17.


Advertisement