The Howard County Board of Education took three straw votes Monday night to move a total of 5,320 students for the 2020-21 academic year. However, the school board’s vote Thursday will reflect a lower, undetermined final student number.
The school board voted separately on the high, middle and elementary school options. All votes passed 5-2, with school board members Vicky Cutroneo and Christina Delmont-Small voting against all three.
With the middle school vote, an amendment was added to move polygons 17, 18 and 2018 from Hammond Middle to Patuxent Middle. A polygon is a cluster of neighborhoods and areas of the county that attend certain elementary, middle and high schools.
The school board is expected to vote on the final redistricting plan Thursday night. Over the next three days, school planning staff will draw up the proposed map and report — derived from Monday’s straw vote — for the school board to vote on Thursday.
After nine work sessions, including a marathon session Monday, the school board’s plan looks to move 2,827 elementary, 486 middle and 2,007 high school students, after crunching numbers provided by Cooperative Strategics LLC — an independent consulting firm based in Irvine, California, and hired by the school system for the redistricting process.
However, the final number of students and high school students will change because of the grandfathering of rising juniors not being factored in Monday night. In the inaugural work session, the school board voted unanimously to not move rising juniors to new high schools next fall.
The number of students moved at elementary and middle school levels might also change after a motion passed Monday night to direct schools Superintendent Michael Martirano to receive a cost estimate of keeping rising fifth and eighth graders at their current school.
A motion failed to direct Martirano to gather a cost estimate of trailing siblings at each grade level.
In August, Martirano presented a recommendation to move nearly 7,400 students to combat school overcrowding, address inequities in the distribution of students affected by poverty, and establish a road map for the county’s 13th high school, in Jessup.
The school board’s plan looks to move several thousand fewer students than Martirano’s, as it puts 51 schools into the system’s target of 90% to 110% utilization of capacity. Currently, 42 schools are within the capacity parameters.
As of now, the plan would place the system’s 74 comprehensive schools between 82% and 129% capacity, with eight schools under capacity and 15 over.
In regard to the free and reduced-price meals program rate, known as FARMs, the school board’s plan looks to reduce the rate at all grade levels.
Highest FARMs rates changed as of Monday’s numbers
- Stevens Forest Elementary from 68% to 62%
- Lake Elkhorn Middle from 53% to 49%
- Long Reach High from 47% to 33%
At the high school level, Oakland Mills High would have the highest FARMs rate, changing from 48% to 42%. Stevens Forest and Lake Elkhorn, would have the highest rates for elementary and middle schools, respectively.
After emailing board members Saturday “formally requesting” to either delay Thursday’s vote or schedule additional work sessions, Cutroneo made a motion during the first hour of Monday’s nearly nine-hour work session to add one or two more work sessions in December. She wanted the additional work sessions to focus on elementary and middle school decisions.
“We haven’t spent an equal amount of time on different [school] levels,” Cutroneo said Monday night, noting many work sessions were dominated by high school discussions and decisions.
“I’m not asking for months more. I am asking for one to two more work sessions so that we can make sure we are making the right decisions.”
Later in the evening, Cutroneo said, “I feel like we are doing speed dating for redistricting.”
The motion failed, 4-2-1, with school board member Chao Wu abstaining.
Delmont-Small, who also voted in favor, said she is “very concerned with the unintended consequences especially at the elementary and middle school level.
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“My concern is that we have been making moves, especially at the elementary and middle school levels, where we have had no discussion from the dais regarding the moves we have made,” she said.
School board member Sabina Taj, whose Nov. 5 motion to revert to Martirano’s proposal failed 5-2, reiterated Monday night that the board should have moved forward with the superintendent’s plan.
“We chose to go down a road of creating plans with seven people, with seven different points of view. We came to some sort of collaborative consensus which we felt good about and now at this point we are playing musical polygons,” Taj said.
“If we want more time we should go back to a plan experts would develop,” she added.
Vice Chairwoman Kirsten Coombs, said: "We talk a lot and we don’t get stuff done, that’s sort of the problem. We grandstand and campaign from the dais.”
“I don’t think another work session, giving it another two weeks, is fair to anybody,” she added.
Community members may submit written testimony until 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Monday’s passed motions
- Eliminate movement of polygons 260 and 1260 from Bollman Bridge Elementary to Forest Ridge Elementary. Passed unanimously.
- Not splitting polygon 130, maintaining it fully districted to Clemens Crossing Elementary. Passed, 4-3. Last week a motion passed to move the Simpson Mills Townhomes, in polygon 130, out of Clemens Crossing to Swansfield Elementary.
- Move polygons 61, 66, 130, 134, 1066, 1130, 1134 and 2134 back to Clemens Crossing. These polygons, including the Simpson Mills Townhomes in polygon 130, were previously discussed/proposed to move to Swansfield Elementary. Passed unanimously.
- Move polygon 138 from Swansfield Elementary to Longfellow Elementary. Passed, 5-0-2 with Cutroneo and Delmont-Small abstaining because of a “lack of information.”
- Move polygon 189 from Dayton Oaks Elementary to Pointers Run Elementary. Passed unanimously.
- Move polygons 200 and 1200 back to River Hill High. Passed, 4-3. During the Nov. 12 work session, a motion passed to move these polygons to Glenelg High.
- Move polygons 117, 118, 120 and 1117 from Atholton High to River Hill High. Passed unanimously.
- Move polygons 38, 124, and 1124 from Long Reach High back to Howard High. Passed, 4-3.
- Move polygons 268, 1268, and 2204 from Wilde Lake Middle to Harper’s Choice Middle. Passed, 4-2-1, with Cutroneo abstaining.
- Move polygons 65, 1065 and 2065 from Thunder Hill Elementary to Phelps Luck Elementary. Passed unanimously.
- Move polygons 65, 1065 and 2065 from Oakland Mills Middle to Bonnie Branch Middle. Passed unanimously.
- Move polygons 55, 59, 1059, 2059 and 3059 from Oakland Mills Middle to Lake Elkhorn Middle. Passed unanimously.
- Move polygon 96 from Stevens Forest Elementary to Thunder Hill. Passed, 6-1.
- Move polygon 1110 from Thunder Hill Elementary to Stevens Forest. Passed unanimously.
- Move polygon 55 from Stevens Forest Elementary to Talbott Springs Elementary. Passed unanimously.
- Move to reassemble polygon 1148. Passed unanimously.
- Move polygon 1148 from Running Brook Elementary to Northfield Elementary. Passed, 5-2.
- Move polygons 1059 and 2059 from Lake Elkhorn Middle back to Oakland Mills Middle. Passed, 4-2-1, with Cutroneo abstaining.
- Move polygon 1148 from Wilde Lake Middle back to Dunloggin Middle. Passed unanimously.
- Move polygon 1171 from Burleigh Manor Middle to Mount View Middle. Passed, 6-1.
- Move polygons 171 and 1171 from Marriotts Ridge High to Glenelg High and Mount View Middle to Folly Quarter Middle. Passed, 6-1.
Monday’s failed motions
- Move polygons 95, 301, 1301, 1095 and 2095 from Waterloo Elementary to Ilchester Elementary and move polygon 76 from Ilchester Elementary to Waterloo Elementary. Failed, 3-2-2, with Cutroneo and Delmont-Small abstaining.
- Move polygons 141, 142 and 1142 from Clarksville Elementary back to Longfellow Elementary. Failed, 6-1.
- Move polygons 132, 1132 and 2132 from Bryant Woods Elementary back to Clemens Crossing. Failed, 4-2-1.
- Move polygons 18 and 1018 from Guilford Elementary back to Hammond Elementary. Failed, 4-2, with Mallo not being present for the vote.
- Move polygons 100 and 1100 from Veterans Elementary to Waterloo Elementary. Failed, 6-1.
- Move polygons 141, 142 and 1140 from Harpers Choice Middle to Clarksville Middle. Failed, 6-1.
- Move polygons 2047, 3037 and 4047 from Reservoir High back to Hammond High. Failed, 3-2-2, with Cutroneo and Mallo abstaining.
- Move polygon 132 from Bryant Woods Elementary to Clemens Crossing Elementary. Delmont-Small amended the motion include polygons 1132 and 2132. Failed, 4-2-1, with Cutroneo abstaining.
- Move polygons 1038 and 2038 from Long Reach High to Howard High. Failed, 4-3.
- Move polygons 171 and 1171 from Marriotts Ridge High to Glenelg High. Failed, 5-2.
- Move polygons 296 and 1296 from Atholton High to River Hill High. Failed, 5-2.