The Baltimore County school board last night approved boundary line changes that will force more than 500 students to change schools over the next two years, but decided not to take up a request by parents at Woodbridge Elementary School to add a seventh grade for the fall.
The redistricting changes affect middle school students in the western and northwestern county as well as elementary school students who live near Sparks Elementary School in the northern county.
The board's inaction on the Woodbridge proposal essentially rejects it for this fall, despite a pledge from parents this month to pay the more than $20,000 cost of renting and installing a portable classroom at the school to provide space for more students.
The Woodbridge parents want to create the county's first school to include kindergarten through 8th grade, saying it would relieve crowding at Southwest Academy and permit children to attend classes in a more nurturing environment.
Their offer to raise money for classroom space was unprecedented in Baltimore County and attracted some support. But county educators and school board members were hesitant to allow parents to donate money to pay for basic school services.
County educators have said that creating a K-8 school would require more planning and money to renovate the building for middle school students.
Last night, the board discussed the proposal briefly but indicated that other, long-term solutions are required for the northwest and southwest areas of the county.
"Within two years, we will be right back where we are today, perhaps worse off than today," said board member Phyllis E. Ettinger.
Board members said they need to build more schools in those areas of the county as soon as possible.
But the board approved a plan to help relieve crowding at Southwest Academy by transferring students to Woodlawn and Old Court middle schools.
Parents from Old Court had objected to the plan at a public hearing this month, saying they did not want more students added to their school as academic performance was improving. But the board approved a compromise proposed by school officials to phase the boundary change in over three years, beginning with sixth-graders this fall.
In addition to the Southwest Academy boundary changes, the redistricting plans approved by the board include several major differences from the proposals introduced in March.
The biggest changes are a delay in redrawing the boundary for the new Sparks Elementary School until fall 1999, and the elimination of a proposal to send some students from Fifth District Elementary School to Sparks.
A larger Sparks building is expected to open next school year to replace the one that burned down in 1995. Sparks students have been attending classes in Cockeysville Middle School, and the new building is projected to open no sooner than mid-October.
Parents at Sparks and Cockeysville worried that if new boundary lines went into effect this fall, there wouldn't be room at Cockeysville for the additional students during the period before the new building opens.
The proposal approved by the board addresses that concern by delaying the transfer of students from Jacksonville for one year. With Fifth District removed from the plan, more students from Jacksonville will be transferred in 1999 than originally proposed.
In the northwest county, the board approved a plan for the 218 Deer Park Middle School students who live in the Cedarmere Elementary School and Timber Grove Elementary School districts to be assigned to Franklin Middle School in fall 1999, when Franklin Middle's 400-seat addition is completed.
Pub Date: 6/17/98