School board postpones redistricting in favor of 5 years 'of peace'


The school board decided yesterday to trade one more year of crowded classrooms for a five-year respite from redistricting.

The school board rejected proposals by acting Superintendent Carol S. Parham that would have redrawn attendance boundaries in five school feeder systems this fall.

Instead, board members ordered a broader study -- to be performed by a committee of residents working with Dr. Parham and her staff -- that will analyze attendance boundaries of all schools. The committee is to be appointed within 30 days.

"I think that if parents had a choice between having an extra student or two in a class vs. their child being uprooted, they would rather have the extra student or two," board member Michael A. Pace said to applause from a group of Seven Oaks parents.

The group's members had opposed a plan to move their children from Crofton Elementary to Meade Heights Elementary when the new school opens in 1995. At Mr. Pace's suggestion, the school board agreed that when the study is finished in December 1994, there will be one major countywide redistricting -- followed by five years "of peace."

Redistricting often occurs as a result of a new school or addition being constructed. But at least some redistricting to deal with classroom over crowding occurs annually, with the school superintendent presenting recommendations to the board each January.

If all goes as planned, however, the board won't have to take up the issue after 1995 until at least 2000.

That's because the study also will look at the practicality of year-round schools and alternate schedules, such as split sessions in which two groups of children attend the same school but in separate morning and afternoon sessions.

"If we're throwing out the idea of a countywide redistricting, we might as well throw out the idea of year-round schools at the same time," said Jo Ann Tollenger, another board member.

But the board's action isn't without a price tag.

Board members voted down a plan to assign all fifth-graders in the Chesapeake High School feeder system to Chesapeake Bay Middle School. The board will probably have to purchase two relocatable classrooms, at Pershing Hill Elementary and West Meade Elementary, at a cost of $80,000 each.

The request for relocatables will be included in the Board of Education's capital budget requests, set to begin in a few weeks.

School board members also said yesterday they plan to ask the county to consider raising its impact fees -- now $2,096 per single-family home.

Impact fees are paid by developers to help defray the cost of such infrastructure items as water service, roads and schools. Another county law, the adequate facilities ordinance, is designed to give county departments veto power over new housing developments if adequate roads, schools and other services will not be able to handle the influx of population.

The problem, said school Planning Director Michael K. Raible, is that county planners often allow builders to proceed with projects regardless of the outcome. The developers pay a fee to have the adequate public facilities restrictions waived, but the school board can't build the schools fast enough to meet the needs of students.

"I think it's time to look at raising impact fees again," Mr. Raible told the school board in a presentation yesterday. "It's an election year, so we probably won't get it, but we'll have laid the groundwork so that in their first year, the newly elected officials could consider it."

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