Redistricting needed balance
The school board voted to allow the Fallston High School ninth-graders to remain at Fallston instead of moving them to Bel Air High next year. This was done because the original redistricting plan would have had Bel Air over 100 percent of capacity during its construction, while Fallston's enrollment would have dropped below 80 percent of its capacity.
This was the reason the parents were upset. Contrary to the article ("Parents protest shifting students," Jan. 7), we are not upset about having our children redistricted. It has been said before, if you build a new school, children are going to have to be moved. The problem is that too many children are being moved. This change will help the high school enrollments until 2010, when Fallston is projected to drop to 73 percent of capacity (visit www.hcps.org/docs/ES_MS_HS_stats_102706_FINAL.pdf ).
They are clearly moving too many children! Fallston Middle School opened a $2.3 million addition this school year. Next year, because of the redistricting, the enrollment will drop below 80 percent of capacity. Bel Air Middle, where these children are being redistricted to, will be at 98 percent of capacity. Does this sound balanced?
Your reporter stated that "both schools will be at or near capacity." This is untrue. The HCPS Web site lists Fallston Middle as having an enrollment of 79.8 percent of capacity. That is not near capacity. In fact, Fallston Middle will be struggling with class offerings because they are losing 14 teachers due to the redistricting. This is not good for the students who will remain.
The article missed the point. Our school board needs to do a better job of balancing enrollment.
Schools officials defy arithmetic
As one of the parents who filed the appeal of the April 3, 2006, redistricting decision by the school board, I feel that it is important to understand what prompted the appeal, and what transpired after the filing.
The redistricting decision reached by the board was accomplished under their "Balancing Enrollment with Capacity Policy," and quite frankly, it did not balance enrollments.
Furthermore, the final enrollment projections (resulting from the new boundary lines) published by the Superintendent's Technical Advisory Committee (STAC), were contrary to basic mathematics. Based on the enrollment maps provided by the school system during the redistricting process, on April 11, 2006, I was able to project enrollments for 2009 at Fallston middle and high using the new boundary lines, which were identical to the current official Sept. 30, 2006, enrollment projections for FMS, and 2 percent higher for FHS in 2009 compared to official projections.
Defying all logic and arithmetic, the STAC's projections published on April 24, 2006, showed FMS in 2009 to have an enrollment of 93.5 percent (8.5 percent higher than actual), and Fallston High in 2009 to have an enrollment of 85.7 percent (11.2 percent higher than actual). In my opinion, this was a deliberate effort to make the final redistricting decision appear to be a success.
Unfortunately, the law regarding appeals of redistricting decisions is written as two basic rules - 1: The local board is always right; and 2: In case of a dispute, refer to Rule 1! Mr. Wolkow is correct that the decision was upheld, but the circumstances speak volumes in this case. We were never able to present the discrepancies with the numbers, which was the basis of the entire redistricting decision.
The "balancing enrollment" decision still kept Bel Air High at about 110 percent of capacity until the new school building is constructed. It forced the board to halt plans for the superintendent's recommendation for the Medical Arts Magnet Program's design and implementation (May 8, 2006), because there wasn't room for the 200 students the program would bring (All of this was being planned WHILE the redistricting was under discussion, and they couldn't figure that they needed the open seats at Bel Air High?) And yet, they continue to say what a fine job of BALANCING enrollments they did.
But what better proof of their inability to balance enrollment is there than the recent decision to grandfather current ninth-grade Fallston High students to remain there until they graduate, thus allowing both Fallston and Bel Air to have enrollments of about 98 percent in 2007, and potentially keep Bel Air below 100 percent during construction. Oh, that's right, let's call it fluid placement of students rather than grandfathering - it is the same thing but maybe people won't make the connection that it HAD to be done to BALANCE ENROLLMENTS. You quote Mr. Morrison that "The board had all the facts, and after 8 months of community meetings, member made a tough decision that balances enrollments." The board did not balance enrollment at Bel Air until last month, eight months AFTER the redistricting decision was final!
Fallston Middle just opened a $2.3 million expansion in August, which increased its state-rated capacity by 126 seats, and will have so many students redistricted out (290 next year), that not only will the current relocatable trailers be unnecessary, so will the new expansion space! Fallston Middle is not projected to have enrollments in excess of its old capacity through the 2012 school year.
In the final paragraph of the article, Mr. Volrath makes comments about Fallston opening in 1978 and students not wanting to go there, and now not wanting to come back. THOSE ARE NOT THE SAME STUDENTS THAT NOW DON'T WANT TO LEAVE. A student's "lifetime" at a secondary school is three or four years, not 28!
All we were looking for was for the school system and the board to be frugal with their displacement of students. Surely, their wounds will heal, and new friendships will develop, but if the process could be accomplished just as well (or better) by moving and disrupting a lesser number of children, then that is what should be strived for whenever balancing enrollment is necessary. Unfortunately, with all of the input and actions taken, I don't know that the administration or the board have been able to grasp that simple concept.
Ensure success of all schools
I am the mother of a 3-year old daughter, who will attend Harford County Public Schools. I was very much involved in the redistricting process that occurred from October 2005 to April 2006.
I reside in Constant Friendship Estates, a development of single-family homes. I and several neighbors unsuccessfully lobbied the Board of Education to redistrict our children to the Patterson Mill Middle/High School. My daughter is currently scheduled to attend Abingdon Elementary, Edgewood Middle and Edgewood High. Our main concerns about our daughter attending Edgewood middle and high schools included: distance to the school (we reside closer to Patterson Mill Midde/High School); poor test scores (some of the worst in the county); and the disproportionate amount of violence that occurs in the Edgewood community. Some of our neighbors have moved (or plan to move) to counter the redistricting; however, we do not plan to exercise this option.
We are an interracial couple (BF/WM) with a biracial daughter. We appreciate the racial/ethnic and socioeconomic diversity that is found in the Edgewood schools, but we have high academic standards for our daughter. It is our hope that with the arrival of BRAC, the Harford school system will have no other choice than to ensure that all of its schools perform at an equal level.
Patterson Mill Middle/High has a capacity of 1,600 students total (900 high and 700 middle). Besides Havre de Grace High, this will be the smallest high school in the county. Following the planned expansions at Aberdeen, Bel Air, and Edgewood high schools, total capacity at those schools will be 1,600 students.
Cheri C. Wilson