About 500 Baltimore County students in 30 schools have another choice to make about their educations: Where will they attend classes next year?
The new policy, approved by the school board Monday, affects fifth-and eighth-graders who would otherwise be assigned to middle or high schools different from the ones the majority of their classmates attend.
Those students, in 22 elementary schools and eight middle schools, will be able to choose between the middle or high school they would normally attend and the school to which most of their classmates are moving.
Although the number of students affected is small, the impact of the policy change may be large.
"It's giving special permission transfers" to small groups of students, rather than individuals, said James Kraft, the county school system's planning manager.
For the 1993-1994 school year, the change is voluntary. But if the choice proves popular, the system may change boundaries to send all students in a district to a single middle or high school.
For example, Holabird Middle School in the eastern part of the county sends 95 percent of its graduates to Dundalk High School and 5 percent (about 10 students next year) to Patapsco. Next year, those 10 students will be able to choose either school. They would, however, have to find their own transportation to Dundalk, while the county would continue to provide bus service to Patapsco.
If the department ultimately decides to change the boundary to put that 5 percent in the Dundalk district, bus transportation would be provided to Dundalk, Mr. Kraft said.
Students from that area in 10th, 11th and 12th grades at Patapsco next year would remain there and would have bus transportation. Once they start high school, students will not be moved because of a boundary change, he said.
The relaxed policy affects only 3 percent of the county's current eighth-graders, about 230 students in all.
Besides Holabird, the middle schools affected are Cockeysville, Ridgely, Loch Raven, Middle River, Deer Park, Franklin and Pikesville.
Only Cockeysville, Holabird, Middle River, Franklin and Pikesville are candidates for 1994 boundary changes, Mr. Kraft said.
The change will affect only about 140 elementary school students -- about 2 percent of the current fifth-graders at the following schools: Carroll Manor, Chase, Charlesmont, Edgemere, Edmondson Heights, Essex, Featherbed Lane, Grange, Hampton, Harford Hills, Hebbville, Lutherville, Martin Boulevard, Middlesex, Oakleigh, Pine Grove, Pleasant Plains, Powhatan, Warren, Winand, Winfield and Woodmoor.
The department is not considering boundary changes for the middle schools these fifth-graders will attend, as the number of children affected at each is very small, Mr. Kraft said. Children at these elementary schools will have their choice of two middle schools. But parents will be responsible for transportation if they choose the school to which the children would not normally be assigned.
Several parents and students who attended Monday's meeting expressed concern about transportation being provided to one school but not to another.
"You've got to provide transportation to both schools. Not one or the other. It's not fair," said Kevin Dasch, a senior at Loch Raven High School.