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'Shopping' for schools questioned before board


Redistricting in Annapolis is useless unless parents are prohibited from school-shopping, a parent told the school board yesterday.

"We have a very high percentage of at-risk kids in Annapolis, and we have a flight from those at-risk kids to schools to which those kids are not districted," said Pamela May, a Germantown Elementary School parent.

May's comments reflect a growing trend in Annapolis of parents favoring newer suburban schools over inner-city schools, where equipment is older and there is a higher percentage of minority students. Inner-city schools also tend to have lower scores on state tests.

The problems, May said, are similar to those experienced in larger cities such as Washington and Baltimore, but on a smaller scale.

For example, she said, "the entire area around here [Board of Education building] is zoned to Mills-Parole. Not one of those kids attends."

She said it is common to hear parents chat about which school they plan to have their children attend.

Figures were unavailable for this school year, but statistics from the 1995-96 school year show that fully half Eastport Elementary's 228 students were out-of-area transfers, most of them white.

At Mills-Parole Elementary, most of the 133 students -- more than one-third of the school population -- who transferred out were white. The situation was similar at Tyler Heights Elementary.

School board members looked unsettled as May spoke, but said they wanted to review this year's figures with an eye toward changing the transfer policy.

Currently, out-of-area transfers are permitted for a variety of reasons, most of which are associated with child care, location of parents' work and custody arrangements.

Annapolis has a high transfer rate. So do schools in the Glen Burnie, Meade and Old Mill feeder systems, all of which have high levels of at-risk, minority children.

"It appears we have our own redistricting in Annapolis with out-of-area transfers," said board member Paul G. Rudolph.

The issue was raised as the school board got its first view yesterday of Superintendent Carol S. Parham's redistricting suggestions for next year. Parham's proposals cover Southern, Northeast, Chesapeake and Meade feeder systems. Annapolis was not included because a parent committee had reached no conclusions about what it wanted.

The transfers are not a new issue. An effort nearly two years ago to tighten the transfer policy failed to win board support. Parents seeking a transfer to a specific school often advertise for a baby sitter who lives in that school's attendance area because before- or after-school care can be the basis for a transfer.

"My daughter went to Windsor Farm, and all of Gingerville went there," said parent Ginny Palmer. "They were going way out of their way. But it was a brand new school with a new computer lab. It was a lot more favorable to them than Parole [Elementary]."

The school board yesterday delayed a vote on a proposed student dress code that would take effect at the start of the next school year.

Among other things, the proposed code would bar clothes and accessories that depict obscenity or violence.

Pub Date: 12/05/96

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