The Maryland State Board of Education may rule as early as Friday on a parent group's appeal of Howard County's most recent redistricting decisions, a spokesman for the state board said.
The state board heard arguments yesterday from a Howard County school board attorney and Waterloo Elementary School parent Barry Budish, who is claiming that the Howard school board's decision to reroute 144 children from Waterloo to Jeffers Hill and Phelps Luck elementary schools is "arbitrary and unreasonable."
Budish told the state board that county school board members did not follow proper policies and procedures when they decided in March to move the Waterloo children to other schools because of crowding.
Budish said 150 people in the Snowden/Kendall Ridge area have signed a petition against the school board's decision. And he added that seven PTAs are concerned about the crowding in county focus schools that the plan would cause.
Michael Molinaro, who represented the county school board, said Budish's case had no merit because the school board followed necessary procedures.
"The local board's redistricting decision was reasonably made," Molinaro said.
"The board proceeded in the same way they have in the past 15 years," he said. "It was a reasonable decision to a terrific problem."
Molinaro also said the signatures Budish and three other plaintiffs collected should not be considered by the state board because they were filed in June, after the April deadline for appeals.
Budish complained that the decision to move the Waterloo children was made without proper community input, noting that the school board discussed moving the children just one week before its deadline to set new boundaries, and did not provide an additional public hearing for parents during that time.
Molinaro told the state board that the county board has been discussing moving the children from the Snowden/Kendall Ridge area for about three years, so the idea was a "modification of an existing plan," not a new proposal.
He also said that even if the board did truncate its procedures or overlook one of its policies, that doesn't make the ultimate decision flawed.
"The failure of a county board to meet one of its criteria is not fatal. You've said so yourself," Molinaro told state board members. "The failure to meet each and every objective does not make it arbitrary or unfair or illegal."
The state board will consider both parties' arguments in executive session.
Neil Greenberger, a state school board spokesman, said the board probably will rush its deliberations - possibly deciding as early as the end of the week - because summer is almost over.
"Because school is scheduled to open, time is of the essence," Greenberger said.