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Redrawn districts get mixed reviews Proposals will mean adjusting countywide

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The high school redistricting proposals presented to parents last week already are prompting both anger and joy throughout Howard County.

Elkridge parents are upset by how the proposal would divide their community's students in half, ending decades of tradition at Howard High School.

In western Howard, parents who live within walking distance of Glenelg High School are bracing themselves for the long drive east to River Hill High School.

And in the Stonecrest and Worthington neighborhoods of Ellicott City, some parents are excited that their children will be redistricted to Centennial High School.

In two nights of meetings about the boundary-line changes last week, associate superintendent Maurice Kalin heard all of those reactions and more as he presented his "current thoughts" on how the high school districts will look next fall.

At least six of Howard's eight high schools will be redistricted next fall to accommodate the opening of two new high schools, Long Reach and River Hill.

The new buildings will relieve most of the county's high-school overcrowding for now, but they also will force at least 1,000 current freshman and sophomores to transfer schools -- many against their will.

Acknowledging that it is impossible for him to please everybody, Dr. Kalin emphasized that his current proposal is likely to change by the time he presents it to the school board Nov. 21.

He has called parts of it "the most difficult redistricting I've done in 20 years."

Nevertheless, several communities already are banding together in opposition to the proposal.

Elkridge residents were particularly vocal Thursday night against the part of the plan that would send students living east of Interstate 95 to Long Reach High.

"I've lived in Elkridge for 12 years, and I don't want my kids in a Columbia school," said Montgomery Woods resident Jeanie Bertoni, who has three sons in elementary and middle school. "Howard High School has been Elkridge's high school, and I want my kids in Howard."

Many of the longtime Elkridge residents say the plan would split up one of the county's oldest communities.

They point out that under the proposal, Long Reach High may have more students from Elkridge than from Columbia's Long Reach village.

"You're breaking up old communities when you should be splitting up the new developments," parent Chris Cisna told Dr. Kalin Thursday night. "I don't understand why established areas can't stay and new developments go to the new school."

But Dr. Kalin said he "can't go in and draw little islands" on the boundary line map. "I don't think it's a good idea to segregate the old and new," he said.

Dr. Kalin agreed to meet with a group of parents to discuss the boundary between Howard and Long Reach.

He also said that the line likely will be adjusted either south or east to send more students to Howard and fewer to Long Reach.

The new River Hill district also has some parents upset, particularly those who live closer to Glenelg High than to the new building in Clarksville.

"We moved out of Clarksville eight years ago to get away from the congestion," said Ken School, who lives 1 1/2 miles from Glenelg High and has a son who is a freshman there this year.

"At Glenelg, he could walk home if he stayed late for after-school activities. Now it's going to be a long drive for us to pick him up."

One mother even offered to bake cookies for Dr. Kalin to try to get him to change his proposal and send her children to River Hill High with their friends.

"If that will work, I'll try it," laughed Nancy Hostetler, who lives on Gaither Farm Road and has four children at Clarksville elementary and middle schools.

Most of her children's friends will be sent to River Hill High, but youngsters on her street currently attends Centennial High and could be redistricted to Atholton. "I just want my kids to stay with their friends," Ms. Hostetler said.

Weaknesses acknowledged

Dr. Kalin acknowledges that there are weaknesses in his current proposal.

For example, he estimates that about 100 fourth- and fifth-graders due to be redistricted from Worthington Elementary School to the new elementary school in Ilchester Road already have had to transfer schools when they were younger.

And Dr. Kalin also said he would prefer not to have to redistrict current sophomores for their junior year but insists that it is necessary to open the new schools with three full classes of students.

But he has agreed to consider allowing sophomores who would be redistricted to existing high schools -- next year, Centennial and Wilde Lake -- to stay at their current schools.

Not everyone is upset by the changes.

While many don't want changes, they understand the need to spread out the students to minimize overcrowding.

"We're sad to leave Worthington [Elementary School] because we've had such a wonderful time there," said Brampton Hills resident Laura Scott, whose two elementary school children likely will attend the new school on Ilchester Road next fall.

"But we're hoping to carry the traditions over to the new school."

Meanwhile, in the Stonecrest and Worthington neighborhoods of Ellicott City, parents said they were excited about the prospect of being redistricted from Mount Hebron High to Centennial High.

Dr. Kalin said he likely will recommend redistricting Stonecrest next fall, and then Worthington for 2002.

"It's a long way off, but I think it will be great if my children can go to Centennial," said parent Lisa Emmerling, who has two children at Worthington Elementary. "Anything can happen, but I hope this stays because Centennial is supposed to be one of the best."

During the two nights of meetings, Dr. Kalin also outlined high school boundary changes that he is considering for 2000 and 2002, the next scheduled years for significant high school redistricting.

Those changes could include:

* Atholton: In 2002, students south of Middle Patuxent River might be transferred to the new high school in Fulton.

* Hammond: In 2002, students in the Hopewell and McGills Common communities might be transferred to Atholton.

* Howard: In 2000, the boundary line between Howard and Long Reach may need to be adjusted. In 2002, students in the Thunder Hill and Glenmont communities might be transferred to Oakland Mills. Those students could be transferred two years earlier if an addition is built onto Oakland Mills.

* Long Reach: In 2002, students living south of Route 175 and pupils in the Deep Run community might be transferred to Atholton.

* Mount Hebron: In 2002, students living in the Worthington area east of Newcut Road might be transferred to Centennial.

Future high school redistricting plans assume that a new high school will be built in the Fulton area and opened in 2002.

If the board decides not to build the school, boundary lines likely would be changed to shift students living in southeastern Howard to other existing schools.

High School Changes Considered

* Transfer to River Hill High School those Atholton High School students who live west of Route 216, Brown's Bridge Road and Guilford Road as well as Atholton pupils who live on streets that only can be reached from those roads.

* Transfer to River Hill those Glenelg High School students who live south of Tridelphia Road and Glenelg pupils who live on streets that only can be reached by Tridelphia Road. Glenelg students who live south of Route 144 and east of the intersection of Tridelphia Road and Route 144 also would be transferred to River Hill.

* Transfer Howard High School students who live south and east of Route 95, Montgomery Road, Waterloo Road and Hayshed Lane to Long Reach High School.

jTC * Transfer students in Columbia Hills from Centennial High School to Wilde Lake High School.

* Transfer Mount Hebron High School students who live west of Newcut Road in the Stonecrest area to Centennial.

Source: Howard County public schools

Elementary School Changes Considered

* Transfer Deep Run Elementary School students who live west of Route 108 to Waterloo Elementary School.

* Transfer to Rockburn Elementary School those Elkridge Elementary School students who live south of Bauman Drive, Ducketts Lane, Santa Barbara Road and Park Circle Drive. Elkridge pupils who live on streets that exit only onto those roads also would be transferred to Rockburn.

* Transfer Rockburn students who live on streets that have exits only onto Ilchester Road to the new elementary school on Ilchester Road. Students who live on streets that exit only onto Kerger Road might be transferred to the new school.

* Transfer Rockburn students who live on streets that exit only onto Route 104 to the new elementary school.

* Transfer Waterloo students who live on streets that exit only onto Meadowridge Road to Rockburn.

* Transfer to the new elementary school those Worthington Elementary School students who live on roads south of Route 103 that exit onto Route 103. This proposal might be changed to leave students from the Wheatfield neighborhood at Worthington and to transfer only students in the Brampton Hills area.

Source: Howard County public schools

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