Coming up with redistricting plans was a breeze this year for Howard County Schools Associate Superintendent Maurice F. Kalin.
But deciding which of the three choices to recommend to the school board Oct. 26 won't be so easy.
At information meetings last night and Tuesday night at Centennial and Hammond high schools, Kalin announced that this year's redistricting would affect middle schools primarily. The changes were prompted by the opening of Bonnie Branch Middle School in Ellicott City next September. To fill the new school, boundaries for a handful of existing middle schools will be redrawn.
Each of the 7:30 p.m. meetings - known for being crowded, long and tense in past years - ended before 9 p.m. and had fewer than 30 people in attendance.
Next year's redistricting process, however, will be a "major, major undertaking," Kalin said, because of the opening of Reservoir High School in Fulton, which will affect all county high schools.
But, Kalin said, this year "we're going to focus solely on Bonnie Branch."
The options Kalin will choose from are:
A feeder system that would take all pupils from Ilchester and Phelps Luck elementary schools and send them to Bonnie Branch. Also, about 25 pupils who attend Rockburn Elementary School would attend. Now, when those pupils graduate from fifth grade, they attend Mayfield Woods, Ellicott Mills or Elkridge middle schools.
Under this plan, 300 pupils who normally would attend Mayfield Woods, 250 students who would attend Ellicott Mills and 150 students who would attend Elkridge Middle School would be redistricted to Bonnie Branch.
The neighborhoods affected by this move would be Brampton Hills, Montgomery Knolls, Valley View, Knollview and Montgomery Meadows.
This plan, Kalin said, is flawed because it creates an "island" of about 110 Rockburn and Ilchester elementary pupils at the southern tip of the Ellicott Mills district who would continue to go to Ellicott Mills, instead of to Bonnie Branch.
"As much as I would like to see a pure feeder school system," Kalin said, "I personally would not feel right about recommending this particular plan for that reason."
This proposal also would create crowding at Bonnie Branch by 2003.
A contiguous neighborhood plan that eliminates the "island" by taking big pieces of the Phelps Luck, Ilchester and Rockburn elementary school districts and sending them to Bonnie Branch.
Under this plan, 300 pupils who would attend Mayfield Woods, 250 students who would attend Ellicott Mills and 150 pupils who would attend Elkridge Landing middle schools would be redistricted instead to Bonnie Branch.
The neighborhoods affected by this plan are Valley View, Knollview and Montgomery Meadows. The neighborhoods of Brampton Hills and Montgomery Knolls would stay at Ellicott Mills Middle School under this plan.
The plan backs away from the feeder school system that county residents have been calling for and would create crowding at Bonnie Branch by 2004. All three plans would require putting portable classrooms at Elkridge Landing Middle School because of severe crowding beginning in 2002.
A move into Columbia middle schools that would reduce the number of pupils in the crowded northeast part of Howard.
Pupils from parts of the Jeffers Hill, Phelps Luck, Ilchester, Waterloo and Rockburn elementary school districts would be moved from the feeder middle schools they now attend to Bonnie Branch, Owen Brown or Mayfield Woods middle schools.
For example, 50 pupils who would attend Mayfield Woods (and a few from Patuxent Valley) would move over to Owen Brown Middle School, making room for the 110 students from Ellicott Mills and Elkridge Landing middle schools who would be redistricted to Mayfield Woods.
Under this plan, 360 pupils who would have attended Mayfield Woods, 140 pupils who would have attended Ellicott Mills and 150 pupils who would have attended Elkridge Landing would go to Bonnie Branch.
This plan also strays from the traditional feeder school system. Its advantages: It doesn't create an island and keeps contiguous neighborhoods together. It moves children out of the crowded northeast to unused seats in Columbia, which is less expensive than building additions or portable classrooms.
Kalin will review comments from the community until he presents his final recommendations to the school board. The board will hold work sessions on the recommendations Nov. 16 and Dec. 7. There will be a public hearing on the suggested new lines Dec. 5.
The school board will adopt new boundary lines Dec. 14.