200 parents hear plans on redistricting; Three alternatives offered for opening of Shiloh Middle; Two options criticized; Some fear changes would split children from community


More than 200 parents from the Westminster and North Carroll areas voiced their concerns last night about proposed boundary lines for a new middle school.

The public meeting at Hampstead Elementary School gave parents their first opportunity to comment on three redistricting options developed by officials in anticipation of the opening of Shiloh Middle School in August 2000.

The 800-pupil school in Hampstead will be on Willow Street in the Westwood Park development adjacent to Hampstead Elementary School on Shiloh Road.

"Coming here tonight is good news because we're opening a new school," Kathleen Sanner, director of school support services, told parents at the meeting.

The creation of new school boundary lines is an emotional process for parents, who worry how their children will handle assignment to a new school.

Westminster area parents criticized two of the proposed boundary adjustments that would send Sandymount Elementary students to Shiloh.

Under the proposals, the children would return to the Westminster area for high school.

"It doesn't make any sense to move a community away from their home base," said Ken Zgorski, president of Sandymount Elementary PTA.

"Sandymount is a Westminster community. We work, shop and do our after-school activities there," he said

School officials said that the second and third options would send Sandymount students to Shiloh to ease crowding at West Middle School in Westminster.

In the second option, Sandymount students who live north of Route 140 would go to Shiloh. Currently, all Sandymount students go to West Middle.

The third option would send all Sandymount students to Shiloh, and they would return to the Westminster area for high school.

Reduced enrollment

This plan would allow the greatest reduction in enrollment at West Middle, and Shiloh would open at almost full capacity.

Westminster resident Cindy Parr, who has two children at Sandymount, said the second and third options would make the difficult middle schools years even tougher. Students sent to Shiloh would make friends there and then would have to go to Westminster for high school.

"I don't know how many of you remember middle school," Parr said. "It's one of the most emotional and confusing times of a school career and maybe even in life."

More division

Some Hampstead parents complained that the proposed options divide Hampstead Elementary more than other schools.

"Hampstead Elementary is the only school in the North Carroll area to be divided," said parent Pat Lewis. "Please leave our community of Hampstead students intact."

The first option affects only schools in the North Carroll feeder system -- the flow of students from elementary to middle to high school. Manchester and Spring Garden Elementary students would attend Shiloh, and Hampstead Elementary students would be split between Shiloh and North Carroll Middle schools.

Under this option, the boundaries would leave 325 vacant places at Shiloh and North Carroll, providing ample room for growth.

Relieve crowding

The second option shifts the school boundary lines in the North Carroll area to the south, so more Hampstead Elementary students would go to North Carroll.

Once Shiloh opens, it will relieve crowding at North Carroll. Reducing enrollment there is critical to a planned renovation of the school, scheduled to begin in the summer of 2002.

After reviewing parents' comments, school staff will make a recommendation at next month's school board meeting. The board is expected to take final public comment on the redistricting, and vote on new boundary lines at a board meeting in March.

Pub Date: 2/19/99

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