The Howard County Board of Education discussed last night proposals to create a kindergarten center to reduce crowding at two elementary schools and to change high school boundaries next year to increase enrollment and programs at Wilde Lake.
Many of the proposals the board discussed at the work session on redistricting were brought up by parents at public hearings last week.
In discussing the possibility of redistricting St. John's Lane Elementary School students next year to relieve crowding, some board members suggested a kindergarten center at Burleigh Manor Middle School, which is about 200 students under capacity. St. John's Lane has the largest kindergarten enrollment and is about 100 students over capacity.
Three board members seemed to favor the kindergarten center at Burleigh Manor because it could also relieve crowding at Waverly Elementary School, which is about 200 students over capacity.
"A kindergarten is self-contained," said board member Linda Johnston. "All they would need is a playground area, which again is self-contained. I would rather see good space used and small class sizes and teachers less harried. . ."
Susan Cook, vice chairwoman of the board, was concerned that middle-schoolers would not mix well with kindergartners.
"You'd have to convince me that it would work," she said.
Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said kindergartners are mixed with older pupils in other schools, such as Howard School of Technology, where more than 100 kindergartners attend a child development class for a half-day.
"It can be done, and it has been done," he said. "I definitely wouldn't rule it out totally."
Board member Sandra French said she's known of districts that are so small that schools teach kindergarten to 12th grade in the same buildings.
But Associate Superintendent Maurice Kalin all but ruled out redistricting St. John's Lane, saying students would be moved again in two years when a new northern elementary school opens on Route 144 in Ellicott City.
Mr. Kalin and Mr. Hickey also ruled out the possibility of reopening Rockland Elementary School in Ellicott City, now a community arts center, to ease crowding at St. John's Lane.
Mr. Hickey said the county now owns Rockland. Even if the former school was reopened, it "would be by far the most substandard school if we were to take it over and would require substantial money to brink it back to par," he said.
Board members also asked about changing the high school boundary lines next year instead of in two years, as the staff recommends.
Last week, parents and students at Wilde Lake High testified that classes and programs had been cut because of under-enrollment.
The board will vote on the redistricting proposals at its March 23 meeting.