Board rejects appeal for redistricting St. John's Lane students


The Maryland state school board this week rejected the appeal of a group of parents at St. John's Lane Elementary School who had wanted students redistricted from the school to relieve severe overcrowding.

But the parents who lost the case were neither surprised nor upset by the state board's decision, saying their concerns about the crowded Ellicott City school will be addressed when a new elementary school opens in 1997.

"It's not a surprise," said Ann Jones Koch, the parent who was the spokeswoman for the families involved in the appeal. "The fact that the funding has gone through for northern elementary school No. 3 ensures that the overcrowding will be relieved."

The appeal stemmed from a 1994 decision by the Howard County school board not to redistrict children from St. John's Lane to either Waverly or Manor Woods elementary schools for the 1994-1995 school year.

More than 100 families of students attending the Ellicott City school had sought to have children redistricted from the older, severely crowded St. John's Lane Elementary to either of the other schools, which they claimed could better handle a larger student population.

During this past school year, St. John's Lane Elementary was 126 students over capacity, Waverly was one student below capacity, and Manor Woods was 32 students below capacity, according to documents filed with the state school board.

School system officials had proposed that 112 students from St. John's Lane Elementary in the Town & Country Boulevard area and in the Wilton Acres neighborhood be redistricted to Waverly for the 1994-1995 school year.

But the county school board rejected the proposals, largely because many other parents in the community opposed the redistricting. They also said that portable classrooms could relieve the crowding at St. John's Lane until a new elementary school opens in the area in 1997.

The state board on Tuesday agreed with the administrative law judge who heard the case. He had determined that the Howard County school board's decision was not "arbitrary, unreasonable illegal."

The appeal was filed by the parents in April 1994, but the first hearing in the case was not held until March 21.

Between the initial filing of the appeal and last week's decision, the County Council guaranteed funding for the new northern elementary school scheduled to open in 1997 on Route 99 near Patapsco Middle School.

Ms. Koch said parents pursued their appeal because they feared that the county's budget problems might delay construction of the new school. They also had hoped that an appeal would relieve crowding at St. John's Lane until the new school opens.

County school board Chairwoman Susan Cook said that the state board's decision was the correct one, and that the county board had long planned to open the new elementary school by 1997.

"We had committed to building that school before they ever filed their appeal," Ms. Cook said.

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