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Don’t move around students to fix Howard County’s housing inequities

From left, Christine Dietrich, Susan Gorel and Karen Fentress-Martin, all Patuxent Valley Middle School parents, peruse redistricting maps during the community meeting at Howard High School.
From left, Christine Dietrich, Susan Gorel and Karen Fentress-Martin, all Patuxent Valley Middle School parents, peruse redistricting maps during the community meeting at Howard High School. (Staff photo by Sara Toth)

To say that families from River Hill school district are elitist and privileged is far from the truth (“Howard redistricting plan will create more equitable and diverse schools,” Aug. 29). The ethnic composition of River Hill is similar to Howard County as a whole. I do agree that the FARM (Free and Reduced-price Meals) percentage is low compared to the average, but who is to blame for that? There is a large concentration of low and moderate income housing in certain locales in the county. If they want to fix the socioeconomic diversity in schools, then offer different housing options throughout the county. This would be less disruptive for students in the long run.

It is very evident that some of Howard County’s schools need to be redistricted due to overcrowding. We need to keep an optimal ratio of students to teachers to maximize learning and attention to the student. Our communities that are affected by this current plan oppose it not because of integration of students based on socioeconomic status but because our current school (River Hill) is under capacity. The main reason to move students is to alleviate overcrowding. Furthermore, the students that are proposed to be moved are 1-3 miles away from the River Hill but are being sent to schools that are triple the distance.

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It is unprecedented to move students for FARM redistribution only. If they want to bring students in to River Hill to help their percentages that would be fine. They don’t have to displace anybody due to the under-use of River Hill. A lot of studies show redistribution of FARM students does not help the students but only helps the numbers. Some of the inherit problems that may occur include the lack of public transportation for before and after school activities, family involvement in student activities due to distance of the school, and loss of community due to displacement of the students.

We want all kids to excel in school wherever they go but a proper and comprehensible study should be done prior implementation. This proposal was far different than every one of their feasibility studies and is being rushed through. Our superintendent, Michael Martirano, stated in his presentation that we should have empathy for our kids and in the end that every student will have access to an excellent education. Our kids deserve empathy. Moving them out of their local community to a school that is farther away when their own school is under capacity is unconscionable.

If every student will have access to an excellent education, then why move students other than to fix an overcrowding issue?

Deepak Baskaran, Ellicott City

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