School board hears plan on redistricting; 358 elementary pupils, 428 in middle grades would have to move; Public hearings in March; System's enrollment expected to increase 16% in next decade


Howard County school board members got their first look last night at a redistricting plan that, if approved, would move almost 800 pupils to new schools next fall.

Associate Superintendent Maurice Kalin outlined the proposal, which would affect 358 elementary school pupils and send 428 middle school pupils to the new Lime Kiln Middle School in August.

There was little discussion of the plan among board members at last night's meeting that was attended by dozens of parents, who examined the document and heard Kalin's recommendations.

A series of work sessions and public hearings will be held before the board votes on a final plan March 25.

Among the recommendations for the 1999-2000 school year:

Move 173 pupils in the Nottingham Village neighborhood -- roughly bordered by Route 100 and Meadowridge Road -- from Rockburn Elementary School in Elkridge to Columbia's Waterloo Elementary.

Move 120 pupils in the Dobbin Road area near Snowden River Parkway from Waterloo Elementary to Jeffers Hill Elementary in Columbia.

Move 65 pupils who live in the Dark Hawk/Davis Road area -- north of Snowden and east of Waterloo Road -- from Waterloo Elementary to Phelps Luck Elementary in Columbia.

Assign 428 pupils from the zone that feeds Clarksville Middle School to Lime Kiln Middle.

No redistricting would be necessary for the new Bonnie Branch Middle School next fall. Ellicott Mills Middle School pupils will attend that school for two years while Ellicott Mills is replaced.

Kalin said portable classrooms and a future addition to Ellicott City's Ilchester Elementary School may be sufficient to handle that school's growth until 2001 or 2002. Kalin said redistricting would be used there only as a "final strategy."

"I don't like to redistrict students until we absolutely have to," Kalin said. "We'd like to defer redistricting until the [later] years."

Redistricting is necessary to accommodate growth and the opening of new schools. Howard has opened one to four schools every year since 1988. Officials predict that the school system will gain 6,732 students in the next 10 years, a 16 percent increase. Enrollment now is about 42,000.

School board member Sandra French said she had received several letters and phone calls from parents concerned about redistricting. But French said the board's priority for the next few weeks is working on the school system's proposed operating budget for next academic year.

"Review it, think about it, give us your thoughts [on the redistricting plan]," said Karen B. Campbell, board chairwoman. "But understand, we are focused on the budget for the next month."

The first public work session on redistricting is scheduled at 7: 30 p.m. March 4. Public hearings are scheduled at 7: 30 p.m. March 9 and 10. Another work session will be held at 7: 30 p.m. March 18.

Also at last night's meeting, board members approved the concept for a long-range plan to improve special education programs.

The plan, which would be implemented between 2000 and 2002 and cost $4.7 million, focuses on giving diploma-seeking special education students better exposure to the regular curriculum, improving relationships between parents and staff members and preventing unnecessary referral of some students to special education.

The board stressed that making the proposal a reality depends on whether money is available. Superintendent Michael E. Hickey is seeking $3.3 million for the program in this year's operating budget.

Pub Date: 1/29/99

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