Samantha Weaver was relieved.
After years of feeling neglected, last week’s recommendation for determining which students will attend the new Crofton High School was sweet vindication for the president of the Nantucket Elementary School PTA. Weaver said the Crofton Redistricting Committee’s recommendation last week is a victory for her third-grade daughter’s school.
Past redistricting efforts have forced the Nantucket community out of Crofton-area schools. The small neighborhood just outside Crofton has a tradition of being glossed over, she said.
“We consider ourselves as part of Crofton and we want to stay in the Crofton community,” Weaver said.
The Crofton Redistricting Committee submitted its final recommendation Monday. The committee spent about five weeks coming up with eight proposals. The final recommendation narrowly beat out two others and ultimately passed 10 to five. Two members abstained from voting.
The 18-member group, first convened Sept. 25, had three priorities: keep enrollment numbers under control, keep neighborhoods together and keep students from splitting up.
The proposal made several recommendations: redistrict Nantucket and Crofton Meadows elementary schools to Crofton High School; allow kids in the Riverwalk at Crofton community to attend the new high school starting the 2020-21 school year; redistrict South River High School students in the Crofton Meadows and Crofton Woods elementary schools areas to Crofton High School; and phase redistricted Arundel and South River high school students into Crofton High.
Schools Superintendent George Arlotto will review the recommendation next. He can submit it to the school board, scrap it and create his own, or perform a combination of the two.
Bob Mosier, a spokesperson for the school district, said Arlotto hasn’t viewed the proposal yet. The superintendent has until Dec. 5 to move a recommendation forward.
“The work of redistricting committees is absolutely vital to our efforts to best utilize the space in buildings across our county,” Mosier said in an email. “This is a process that is extremely important, but it is just one step.”
While this may be the first step in a process that could last until April, some parents have expressed frustration about the committee’s decision.
Tiffany Schwab, a teacher and mother of two, said she was “disappointed” with the recommendation.
Schwab has kids in second and fifth grades at Crofton Elementary School. As part of the recommendation, they will be displaced to Piney Orchard Elementary and Arundel Middle schools.
The Baltimore County schoolteacher fears that would damage friendships her kids have made through sports and school.
“With very few neighbors, Crofton Elementary and the local youth sports programs have become our community,” Schwab said. “The friendships that my children have developed over the past six years are the foundation to their social, emotional and academic well-being during the most critical school years. Having children switch in fourth and seventh grades, in my professional opinion, seems to be more harmful than helpful.”
Recommending the school system temporarily move students from Crofton Elementary and Crofton Middle schools to Piney Orchard Elementary and Arundel Middle schools came because the latter two buildings will have the most available space, said Jonathan Boniface, a member of the committee and longtime Crofton High School advocate.
There are some exceptions, though. Rising third and fourth graders at Crofton Elementary School and rising seventh graders at Crofton Middle School can be grandfathered in to remain at their schools, according to the proposal.
Jessica Bello Vermillion, a Crofton resident since 1992, was pleased with the recommendation. She lives in the Crofton Woods Elementary School attendance zone. She said children in her community deserve to go to the new high school.
The community has seen a population surge since Money magazine in 2007 and 2011 named Crofton one of the country’s 100 best places to live, Vermillion said.
“That’s when things really started picking up for Crofton,” she said.
New construction and housing developments in the area have also contributed to growth. Now, most of the area’s schools have swelled over capacity.
“People are fed up,” Vermillion said. “People are fed up with traffic, people are fed up with crowded schools and then to find out that their children won’t be able to attend Crofton High School was the straw that broke the camel’s back. So people are kind of at that make or break point. This gives them a reward for dealing with all of this.”
Student enrollment countywide grows about 1 percent annually. But enrollment in the Crofton area has exploded.
The student population at Crofton Elementary School has increased about 34 percent, Boniface said.
Crofton High School is expected to hold about 1,700 students, but members of the committee — and the community — fear that’s too small.
“The sad part is the fact that our middle schools are going to be (overcapacity),” said Laticia Hicks, a Crofton resident and mother of two who hopes to represent District 7 on the county school board. “They’re overcapacity right now.”
Hicks also served on the redistricting committee.
“I think what worked really well was that the parents there were really laser-focused on the best proposal they could, taking into consideration everything,” Hicks said.
Although she had a hand in creating the recommendation, Hicks doesn’t think it will affect her ability to remain partial on the board if elected on Tuesday. She could end up voting on the proposal if Arlotto moves it to the board.
“The recommendation is not binding so it’s one of the however many that the board will have to consider,” Hicks said. “I don’t see any conflict.”
The school board could consider a number of recommendations, depending on what Arlotto presents and if members of the public submit proposals.
Michelle Corkadel, who is battling Hicks in the school board race, said she looks forward to engaging the public throughout the redistricting process.
“I do not think this should be the only say the public has,” Corkadel said. “The point of Crofton High School was to keep the community together and we’ve known for quite some time what the expansion was going to be. I honestly think we're were taking a step in the right direction with that recommendation.”
Both candidates are worried about population. Small class sizes and the community schools model are at stake.
The committee has called upon the school district to expand Arundel Middle and Crofton High schools to curb crowding.
The challenge that remains could be tricky — satisfy as many people in the Crofton area as possible.
For now, Amy Applestein, owner of Liquor Mart & Deli in Annapolis, is happy. She said she moved to Crofton 15 years ago because of the schools.
Under the committee’s recommendation, her 13-year-old twin daughters would attend Crofton High School by their sophomore year. But she’s worried that if the school system doesn’t adopt the redistricting committee’s proposal, they would be forced away from friends and attend Arundel High School.
“(That areas is) a little bit foreign to us. This is our area,” Applestein said. “It’s where we shop, where we live, where we have our friends. We do everything here.”