Carroll school officials, responding to concerns of Manchester parents, are developing a fifth redistricting option for elementary students in the county's northern attendance area.

Vernon F. Smith Jr., director of school support services, said the option will take into consideration concerns raised by residents at public meetings last month.

At meetings held in Manchester and Hampstead, Manchester parents objected to transferring their children to either Hampstead or the new Spring Garden Elementary, slated to open next fall.

Residents said they moved into the Manchester community because of the proximity to the elementary school. They also said the sense of community in Manchester instilled a sense of pride in them and their children.

Those sentiments were repeated at a board meeting last week.

"I don't believe our children should be sent down to Hampstead," said Manchester resident William McDonald.

Parents have voiced particular opposition to a proposal known as Option C, which would relocate 182 students from Manchester to either Hampstead or Spring Garden Elementary, near Boxwood Drive in the Roberts Field development.

Smith called the fifth plan a modified version of Option C.

"We are going to look at reducing to some degree the number of students we are proposing to take from Manchester and leaving those students who live within town limits in Manchester," he said.

He cautioned, though, that school planners are still working on that option, which will be presented, along with the other proposals, to the Board of Education for consideration in January.

The board is expected to approve a plan at that meeting, at 9 a.m. Jan.

9 at North Carroll High School. The public will have an opportunity to once again comment on the options at the meeting.

William Murphy, a Millers resident and an unsuccessful school board candidate, said he was "very upset" at the timing of the board's consideration of the redistricting plans. He said the holidays prevent many people from attending meetings to learn about the options.

But board member Cheryl A. McFalls, who lives in Manchester, said she was willing to have the board make a decision in January.

"I don't see anything to keep us from making a decision," she said, noting that educators need about six months to prepare for the school's opening.

The other options range from leaving Manchester Elementary's boundaries intact to transferring 96 students from Manchester Elementary to Hampstead and dividing Hampstead's attendance area in half.

Redrawing boundary lines, school officials said, is necessary to alleviate overcrowding at Manchester and Hampstead elementaries and to balance enrollment between those schools and Spring Garden.

Hampstead, with a capacity of 550 students, has an enrollment of 934.

Manchester's enrollment is 942 students, well beyond its capacity of 700.

Both schools have several portable units.

The $5.4 million Spring Garden Elementary will have a capacity of 600 students. Without redrawing attendance areas, Spring Garden would open at slightly below capacity, school officials said.

Superintendent R. Edward Shilling said the redistricting proposal is the first of many the board will have to consider as new schools open.

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