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At Monday’s second redistricting work session, the Howard County Board of Education discussed boundary lines for the 13th high school, to be built in Jessup, and began addressing high school capacity. Many community members were in attendance, holding signs and wearing T-shirts that represented different neighborhoods and groups.
At Monday’s second redistricting work session, the Howard County Board of Education discussed boundary lines for the 13th high school, to be built in Jessup, and began addressing high school capacity. Many community members were in attendance, holding signs and wearing T-shirts that represented different neighborhoods and groups. (Jess Nocera)

Howard County Board of Education member Christina Delmont-Small stressed at a work session Monday night that while the ongoing redistricting process is “painful,” she wants to make it less of a burden to residents.

“When I ran for the board, believe it or not, one of the reasons I did was to do redistricting,” Delmont-Small said. “I kept watching from the outside and I felt maybe there’s a way to impact this process to make it less painful. It’s never going to not be painful, but I want to make it as less painful as possible.”

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Howard schools Superintendent Michael Martirano presented a proposal in August 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.

His proposal looks to reassign 7,396 students, including 3,194 elementary, 1,351 middle and 2,851 high school students. Students would be moved ahead of the 2020-21 school year.

The school board is scheduled to vote on a final plan Nov. 21.

On Monday night, the school board held its second redistricting work session at the board’s headquarters where potential boundary lines for the 13th high school and two board members’ high school-level proposals were discussed.

In addressing the existing 12 high schools, school board member Vicky Cutroeno said, “We need to establish reasonable boundaries for high school 13 so we can progress” with redistricting.

The school board discussed the 13th high school’s potential boundary lines to be from Route 175 to the county line and a portion of North Laurel where approximately 394 homes are set to be built on the Milk Producers Cooperative Association property. This county area, categorized as polygon 2010, is currently in the Hammond High School district in Columbia.

School board member Chao Wu made a motion to request the Office of School Planning provide capacity and Free and Reduced Meals program data for the new high school, grades 9 through 12, for the potential boundary. The motion passed unanimously.

School board Chairwoman Mavis Ellis stressed several times, “We cannot make that decision [on the final high school 13 boundary lines]. … We can make a recommendation.”

“We cannot make any firm decisions. Whatever we are talking about with high school 13 is not final. It is just a projection. It will probably be voted on in 2022,” Ellis said.

Only Wu and school board member Jen Mallo presented formal plans for redistricting at the high school level. No motions were made Monday night regarding high school-level moves.

Both described their plans using polygon numbers, which represent clusters of neighborhoods and areas of the county that attend certain elementary, middle and high schools.

Wu’s proposal

  • Atholton High polygons 118, 190 and 1190 to River Hill High
  • Reservoir High polygons 114, 122, 125, 1114, 1115, 1125 and 2114 to River Hill High
  • Centennial High polygons 97, 154, 214, 1154 and 2154 to Marriotts Ridge High
  • Hammond High polygons 57, 270, 273, 1057 and 2057 to Atholton High
  • Oakland Mills High polygons 56, 1056, 2056 and 3056 to Atholton High
  • Howard High polygons 44, 86, 87, 299, 1086, 1087, 1299, 2087, 3087 and 4087 to Long Reach High
  • Long Reach High polygons 33, 35, 266, 1033, 1035, 1082, 1266, 2035, 3035 and 4035 to Oakland Mills High
  • Mt. Hebron High polygons 308, 1308 and 2308 to Centennial High
  • Oakland Mills High polygons 151, 1151 and 2151 to Wilde Lake High
  • River Hill High polygons 180, 182, 1180, 1182, 2182, 3182, 200 and 1200 to Glenelg High

Mallo’s ‘test scenario’

  • Atholton High polygons 64, 117, 118, 120, 123, 128, 129, 130, 190, 296, 1064, 1117, 1120, 1123, 1128, 1129, 1190 and 1296 to River Hill High
  • Atholton High polygons 133, 2133, 3133 and 4133 to Wilde Lake High
  • Centennial High polygon 100 to Howard High
  • Centennial High polygons 97, 154, 214, 1154 and 2154 to Marriotts Ridge High
  • Hammond High polygons 48, 50, 57, 270, 1048, 1050, 1057, 2050, 2057 and 3048 to Atholton High
  • Howard High polygons 38, 44, 86, 87, 299, 1038, 1086, 1087, 1299, 2038, 2087, 3087 and 4087 to Long Reach High
  • Howard High polygon 311 to Oakland Mills High
  • Long Reach High polygons 33, 266 and 1033 to Hammond High
  • Long Reach High polygons 35, 78, 79, 80, 81, 1035, 1080, 1266, 2035, 2081, 3035, 3071 and 4035 to Oakland Mills High
  • Marriotts Ridge High polygons 171 and 1171 to Glenelg High
  • Mt. Hebron High polygons 308, 1308 and 2308 to Centennial High
  • Oakland Mills High polygons 49, 52, 54, 56, 58, 1054, 1056, 1058, 2054, 2056 and 3056 to Atholton High
  • Reservoir High polygons 9 and 1009 to Atholton High
  • Reservoir High polygons 114, 1114, 1115, 2114 and 3115 to River Hill High
  • River Hill High polygons 182, 199, 200, 201, 202, 203, 1182, 1183, 1199, 1201, 1202, 2182, 2183 and 3182 to Glenelg High
  • River Hill High polygons 176, 180, 181, 183, 1180, 1181 and 2176 to Wilde Lake High
  • Wilde Lake polygons 111, 1111 and 2111 to Oakland Mills High
  • Wilde Lake High polygons 53, 66, 134, 1066, 1134, 2053, 2134, 2135 and 2174 to River Hill High

During the first work session Oct. 17, the school board reached a consensus without needing to vote to use current boundary lines as a starting point when making redistricting decisions.

A motion passed unanimously that night not to move rising juniors from their current school; rising seniors were never considered to be moved per school board policy. However, an amendment was added that parents of rising juniors would need to opt in for bus transportation.

A motion to keep children who currently walk to their respective schools failed by a 4-3 vote. The motion can potentially be considered at a later date, as school system administrators will provide additional information about students who walk to schools.

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In the first work session, school board members disclosed whether they have children in the school system, whether their children could be affected and whether their neighborhood could be affected in the redistricting process.

School board members Vice Chair Kirsten Coombs, Sabina Taj, Delmont-Small and Cutroeno will have children in the school system next year, but their neighborhoods would not be affected. Wu’s children and his neighborhood could be affected by redistricting. Ellis and Mallo do not have children in Howard schools, but their neighborhoods could be affected.

Monday’s work session was packed, with an additional row of seats added for community members, while others stood along the back walls and even more people watched in an overflow room. Members of the public are allowed to attend the work sessions but cannot participate.

The room was filled with various colored T-shirts, representing specific neighborhoods and groups. Many audience members had signs with their polygon number on it.

Public hearings closed earlier this month, with approximately 580 students, parents and community members testifying before the school board, according to online sign-in sheets. Most of the testimonies were opposed to the superintendent’s proposal.

Howard residents, students and parents can submit written testimony until Nov. 19.

Remaining work sessions are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and Nov. 5, 12, 14 and 18.

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