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Many people attend the Howard County school board meeting at which the board voted about redistricting.

Redistricting will help student diversity

As our county and school system grow, it is necessary to redistrict, which can be stressful. However, just because our children are at one set of schools now should not guarantee that they will always be there. A school system is not well served when some schools are overcrowded and others are underutilized. This doesn’t make sense for our students or for our tax dollars.

As parents whose children (now grown) were redistricted, we too wondered what redistricting would mean. Our children were redistricted to what was considered the worst high school in the county. Kids from lower socioeconomic areas that our kids didn’t know would be in school with them. We took a leap of faith that our kids would be OK. They survived and thrived and today, as adults, value highly the diversity they experienced in high school.

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As parents, we understand that it is our job to protect our children, although parents don’t always agree on what that means. Some parents are concerned their children may not see their current friends every day at school as they used to and they may have to make new friends. Those changes can also be seen as an opportunity to meet new children and see the world in a new way, opening their horizons.

Some parents are concerned about their children being bused or bused for a longer time. Busing is standard school transportation and has been used for many years without apparent significant harm.

Some parents are concerned their children will be negatively affected by attending “low-performing” schools. They are afraid their test scores will not be high and their education will suffer. Actually, studies by the Century Foundation found students in “higher-performing” schools were not negatively impacted in their education, while the students who had been in the “lower-performing” schools were positively impacted. Critical thinking skills, students’ leadership skills, problem-solving and creativity were improved by exposure to a wider range of perspectives. Lastly, our world is diverse and it is helpful for students to learn how to live and work in our diverse society.

We support a plan that redistricts children which will ultimately improve the overall learning of all through diversity. As longtime residents of Howard County, we believe we can do better: not fearing change, welcoming new opportunities for the benefit of all.

Harriet and Larry Bachman

Columbia

Redistricting moves are being done for a reason

Opposition to the Howard County school redistricting plan is out of control, and I am frustrated and disappointed by the rhetoric of fear that colors the public outcry from certain elements of our community.

Comments by redistricting opponents such as “we have worked hard to give our children the best school” and references to the redistricting plan about placing “high-achieving students in lower-achieving schools” are blatantly elitist and show that the arguments against redistricting are not about what is best for students throughout the entire Howard County community. I am shocked at how personal and base some of the arguments have become for the teachers, parents and students of these so-called lesser schools.

I am proud my two children have had the pleasure and privilege of coming through the Wilde Lake feeder system, and I am also pleased to say I have encountered plenty of “high-achieving” and highly successful graduates of Wilde Lake High School. I also know many parents who have worked very hard so their children may have the best education possible and be successful at Wilde Lake or other “non-performing” schools. In fact, many parents do everything they can to move into the Howard system from other neighboring communities for this very reason alone, and it’s not always River Hill they seek.

The difference in academic reputation among Howard County schools is a mystery to me, and the corresponding difference in ratings on real estate websites even more difficult to discern. My family and I love Wilde Lake and the “secret sauce” our school community possesses, and I can’t imagine a much better public education for our children. Teachers and administrators in the county public school system feel the same. In fact, this is the reason teachers and administrators regularly return to Wilde Lake after working in other Howard County schools.

I support what is best for all students in the school system so every Howard County family has the same educational opportunity. While I don’t necessarily relish the idea of hundreds of new students being moved from other schools like River Hill into Wilde Lake, because I think this has the potential to disrupt a very unique and thriving school culture, I also realize that these moves are being done for a reason — to help ensure equity in classroom size and student-body make-up throughout all schools.

For those parents and students at River Hill and elsewhere who have loudly made reference to the Wilde Lake community as being inferior, either by their veiled, elitist statements about hard work and achievement or by stating that community is most important when really what they mean to say is “our property values matter most,” it is time to get over yourselves!

Our children are “high-achieving,” and we are “hard-working” and want the very best for our kids, and we chose to stay in the Wilde Lake community when we moved and could have taken our children to any other school in the district.

I can understand why some parents may be afraid, because it is uncharted territory and uncomfortable to change. It is the fear of the unknown. Understandably, children and their families will be upset to leave friends in their previous school community; however, we at Wilde Lake will make every effort to welcome our new friends and classmates and will do what we can to make their transition smooth and minimally disruptive so that they take full advantage of the Wilde Lake experience and in turn learn everything they need to get in to the top universities and professional schools and be successful in life.

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I can assure you your children will get the same quality education wherever they end up in the system. We should have confidence that our elected school board officials and school system leadership will ensure that their goal of an outstanding education for all Howard County students is achieved and that the opportunity for future success is available to all.

It is worth noting that some of the more recent arguments by “health professionals” about the negative psychological or physical effects of kids changing schools or having slightly longer bus rides seem like a stretch. These arguments are spurious at best and are simply meant to distract from the greater issue (in fact, many current bus routes are already quite long).

Let’s support a decision based on what is good for the entire Howard County community now before the situation gets unmanageable.

James M. Zimmerman

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Columbia

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