Crowded schools a west county dilemma Parents have sought new high school for many years


With every home constructed west of Interstate 97, the question of what to do with children that will be added to some already crowded schools grows more complex.

Meanwhile, parents in Crofton and neighboring communities have lobbied for years for a west county high school. But in those communities, there aren't enough students to support a new high school and won't be, even by 2003, the year the school board estimates it could be built.

County Executive John G. Gary has suggested the board redraw school attendance boundaries so students in crowded schools are transferred to schools where there are places.

For west county, that could mean sending students to South River High School, which has nearly 1,000 empty seats. But west county residents say they want their children going to classes together in a school nearby.

"Bus travel to me is not a safe trip," said Brenda Reiber, a Crofton resident who has a daughter in Crofton Woods Elementary School and a son who will start school next year. "I am very anti-busing. I think schools define the community. I love the fact that my daughter's school is right around the corner."

If the board doesn't redistrict to send some west county students to South River or An- napolis, students from the new homes will continue to be squeezed into more portable classrooms because Mr. Gary has not stopped development in the Arundel Middle and High school Mr. Gary has proposed forbidding new subdivisions in areas where elementary schools are 15 percent over capacity and secondary schools reach 20 percent over capacity, but the policy has not gone into effect.

Parents say the battle over a west county high school has little to do with the need for the building and more to do with the politics behind the issue.

Breaking up neighborhoods

Patty Sherbun, a member of the Greater Crofton Community-based Schooling Committee, complained that Mr. Gary wants to force the school board to break up neighborhoods in redistricting plans to relieve crowded schools.

She and other parents have said they don't like plans that would send their children to schools outside their communities, but if JTC their children must go elsewhere, they should go together.

"Parents don't want to see half of a community sent somewhere and another half sent somewhere else," said Sheila Korvin, president of the PTSO at Arundel Middle.

The school board "is going to have to draw a line somewhere, and not everybody's going to be pleased with it," said Ms. Korvin.

No budgetary requests

Lisa Ritter, Mr. Gary's spokeswoman, said the school board has not made crowded schools a priority in its budget requests, despite the parents' concerns.

"Here you've got a school [Arundel High] that's 12 percent over capacity and yet the school board has made no budgetary requests for it," Ms. Ritter said.

"The No. 1 priority in their list is Park Elementary," which is 24th on a list of 30 crowded schools in the county, according to Ms. Ritter.

"If the school board would look at spot redistricting, we might be able to do some of the additions in the overcrowded schools," she said.

But board members resent what they see as Mr. Gary's attempts to infringe on their independence and balk at redistricting proposals that would break up neighborhoods.

The executive is trying to make them "the bad guys," board member Maureen Carr-York complained at a meeting with county planners earlier this month.

Pub Date: 3/28/96

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