Proposal for testing special-ed students draws opposition

If Maryland's special education teens were required to pass last year's High School Assessment exams to graduate - which the state is considering requiring all students to do - 90 percent of them would not earn their diplomas.

The figure is scaring some parents who say it is not fair and nearly impossible for their learning-disabled children to take the same classes and pass the same tests as general education students, who are apparently having trouble passing: Nearly half of high-schoolers in the state failed one of the four assessment tests given last year.

"Some people cannot do algebra or geometry. I do not think that should hold them back from receiving a diploma," said Laurie Palmer, whose 16-year-old son, Tavon Hood, needs a diploma from Oakland Mills High School to train to become a plumber.

Palmer, who lives in Columbia, is one of many who have stepped forward to complain about the assessments and the classes they require. Next month, the Maryland Board of Education will again discuss making passing the exams a graduation requirement.

Residents reportedly resigned to group home

Elkridge homeowners who were adamantly opposed to a planned group home for the mentally ill in their community have adopted an attitude of resignation toward the residence, community leaders say.

"They're somewhat resigned because they know it's going to take place," said Val McGuire, vice president of the Greater Elkridge Community Association. "It's federally mandated, the property is owned by Re- Visions and they're going to build."

ReVisions, a nonprofit provider of services to people with psychiatric disabilities, will operate a home designed for six mentally ill adults - all older than 50. It will be built on a Bauman Drive site adjacent to Hunt Club Estates. The residents will receive round-the-clock care and attend ReVisions' medical day care program in Catonsville.

Rouse makes concessions in Columbia rezoning bid

In a marathon Howard County Zoning Board meeting that ended at 4:08 a.m. Tuesday, the Rouse Co. made concessions in its request to add a few thousand residents to downtown Columbia.

Expecting the hearing, which began about 8:30 p.m. Monday, to be the last on the development company's petition to add more than 2,100 residential units to Columbia, Chairman Ken Ulman pledged that the board was willing to stay as long as necessary. The board will schedule a session to vote on the petition. Hearings began in July; the long session was the eighth.

One of the company's key changes was the voluntary move to increase the number of moderately priced housing units from 5 percent to 10 percent. That would lead to at least 160 affordable units in Town Center and 54 affordable housing units set aside for the other villages.

Plan unveiled for school on a site in Dayton

After months of watching suit-clad people poking at a 23-acre parcel on Ten Oaks Road, Dayton residents found out Wednesday night what is planned: an elementary school.

Representatives from Howard County's public school system announced during a community meeting that they hope to build the school on half of the site - owned by the Department of Recreation and Parks - and develop the other half as a park.

The land is occupied only by a farmhouse and barn, and leased to a resident. But Gary J. Arthur, the county's recreation and parks director, said plans have been in the works to develop the site as a park by 2012. If the school is built there instead, most of the remaining 13 acres would be turned into a recreational area - albeit smaller than initially proposed, but ready for use by 2006.

Senators give Robey hope for new funding source

After getting a cold shoulder since January from Howard state legislators asked to approve new taxes to fund school construction, County Executive James N. Robey saw signs of a thaw Thursday at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

"There's a good chance we'll find a way to fund some more money for school construction," said state Sen. Robert H. Kittleman, a Republican and the second of Howard's three state senators to express general support for Robey's pleas in the past two days.

Democratic Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, who in March led the senators in killing Robey's real estate transfer tax increase proposal for schools, said after a meeting Wednesday of the General Assembly delegation, "I'm confident we'll work out something. We'll reach a solution."

Redistricting plans attract school board critique

The Howard County Board of Education took the school system's demographer to task Thursday night over redistricting recommendations for the coming school year, claiming that many of them are needed to fix careless mistakes from previous years.

"The whole process that led us to this point concerns me," said board member Courtney Watson, who suggested to demographer David C. Drown that he and the boundary-line committee create some kind of checklist to make sure they haven't missed anything when making changes.

Unlike in recent years when thousands of students have been shuffled around to fill new schools, this round of redistricting is relatively minor.

Lesser count to be applied in crosswalk stings

Howard County police plan to use a law that carries a less stringent penalty to charge people caught in crosswalk stings, officials said last week.

Instead of using the crosswalk law, police will impose negligent driving charges on violators who fail to stop for a plainclothes officer crossing on marked pavement, a police spokeswoman said. The negligent driving citation is said to allow violators to pay a $270 fine without appearing in court and carries no jail time.

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