The Howard County Board of Education and school system staff on Thursday held an initial discussion about potentially delaying the redistricting process that was approved in November for another year due to the new coronavirus pandemic.
Nearly 5,400 Howard County Public School System students are scheduled to move to new schools starting in the 2020-21 academic year, a result of the contentious redistricting process that dominated school board meetings for most of the fall.
“The process has not stopped as far as the schools are concerned. We are still moving forward; we have never sent a message that it was going to be delayed. We are really moving along through this process,” said Anissa Brown Dennis, chief school management and instructional leadership officer, at Thursday night’s school board meeting
School board member Kirsten Coombs said she requested the discussion “because COVID-19 is impacting every aspect of our lives and will certainly impact our students and educators in the 2020-2021 school year and it is only four months away.”
For now, all Maryland public schools are closed through April 24. However, there is the possibility the closure will be extended, which was a point of conversation during Thursday’s discussion.
Coombs said she wanted to begin “a thorough public conversation” about all potential effects of the redistricting plan if schools do not reopen before the end of the year.
“I want to know what the plan is if we don’t open up [in August] and I want to know that staff is thinking about if we don’t open in August,” Coombs later added. “I am just concerned with how this process plays out when it’s implemented, when the kids don’t [go] into school in August [and instead] are meeting their teachers online.”
Howard schools Superintendent Michael Martirano said, “Many students and families have already been welcomed and oriented to their new schools and plans are in place for continuing the orientation process.”
School system staff who will be moving to a new school due to redistricting have been given their assignments, bus routes revisions have been prepared, student schedules have been adjusted and many hours have been spent by staff to keep the process on track, he said.
“Our system is already in motion, [with] all the actions necessary to assure a smooth transition to adopt the school boundaries for the next school year,” Martirano said.