Parents score in boundary dispute Carroll school board amends lines, lets 14 students stay put


Persistence paid off for parents in the Carroll Highlands community in their effort to keep 14 neighborhood children at Carrolltowne Elementary School.

The county Board of Education amended school boundary lines last week as part of the redistricting process associated with the opening of Linton Springs Elementary School in August.

The amended plan makes it possible for the 14 Carroll Highlands children to remain at Carrolltowne Elementary instead of being transferred to Freedom Elementary.

Since January, a small number of parents have attended public hearings with school officials and the board to argue against the boundary lines the board established in March.

They said the lines unnecessarily divided their community and created a pocket of children who would attend Freedom Elementary.

"The line went right down the middle of the street," said board member Ann M. Ballard, who sided with neighborhood parents.

"This was an unusual situation, and I felt it was in the best interest of the students to all stay together in that neighborhood," Ballard said.

Board President C. Scott Stone voted against the change last week, saying it did not meet board criteria for reversing the earlier vote.

Stone said he considered these questions in reaching his decision:

Was the process used in the Linton Springs redistricting flawed?

Has new information been presented to the board?

Would it be fair and equitable to other families in the community who had asked for exceptions?

"The answer was no," Stone said. "I argued that the decision was arbitrary and would not be upheld by the State Board [of Education] if it was appealed."

If the intent was to keep the neighborhood together, Stone said, it would have made more sense to send the entire Carroll Highlands community to Freedom Elementary, which is under capacity.

Pleasant surprise

But Elizabeth Howard, a Carroll Highlands resident whose children would have moved to Freedom Elementary, said she was pleasantly surprised by the board's vote last week -- even though she had prepared her children to change schools.

"They had established ties at Carrolltowne, but we had discussed that we are fortunate enough that South Carroll schools are all wonderful," she said.

"It wasn't a matter of going to a school that was not great," she said. "It was a matter of living in a well-established community and all of a sudden having it not make a difference."

Under the original redistricting plan, the Carroll Highlands students went to Carrolltowne, except for 14 children living on Harvest Farm Road and Autumn View Drive, who would have gone to Freedom Elementary, Howard said.

"On the map it may have looked like a natural dividing line, but to drive through our community was to actually see how impractical that original boundary line was," she said. "There are two houses that aren't even separated by a street, yet they were zoned to go to different schools."

According to school planning staff, one of the main goals of the Linton Springs redistricting was to reduce enrollment at the severely crowded Carrolltowne Elementary. The school has a capacity of 575 but a student population of 885.

The second change

The board's vote last week was its second amendment to the redistricting plan.

In March, the panel agreed to let children in the Flanders/Amberley neighborhood remain at Carrolltowne instead of going to Eldersburg Elementary.

The opening of Linton Springs will ease crowding at Carrolltowne, but because of the board's modifications it will be the only elementary school in southeastern Carroll County to be above capacity for the 1998-1999 school year, school officials said.

The addition of 14 students will bring Carrolltowne's projected enrollment to 601.

Pub Date: 5/17/98

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