Concerned About Howard County School Redistricting? Speak Up Tonight
"It's not a perfect plan, and if someone comes up with a perfect plan, I'll take it." - Joel Gallihue, manager of school planning.
In three-minute increments, Howard County residents will have the chance Tuesday night to offer their concerns, complaints and suggestions about a redistricting plan being considered by Howard County Public School System officials.
A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. at the school system headquarters, 10910 Route 108, Ellicott City.
The proposed plan could relocate as many as 1,220 students to ease overcrowding in southeast area elementary schools, school officials said. Four schools are projected to be at or above 110 percent of capacity next year, and two more are expected to be at that benchmark in the near future.
"We've been trying to get public input and this meeting is another opportunity for residents to offer their thoughts," said Joel Gallihue, manager of school planning.
This is not the first meeting with the public on the proposed plan.
Two regional meetings were held at Hammond and Centennial High schools, staff members have met with PTAs and comments have been gathered via electronic and regular mail, Gallihue said.
In total, 10 schools are part of the redistricting plan that will tap underutilized schools to help ease the burden of the overcrowded buildings, Gallihue said.
The following elementary schools would see shifts in enrollment in August 2012, according to the proposal submitted to the school board last month by Howard County superintendent Sydney Cousin and other school planning officials: Atholton, Bollman Bridge, Dayton Oaks, Forest Ridge, Fulton, Gorman Crossing, Guilford, Hammond, Laurel Woods and Pointers Run.
Some Kings Contrivance residents have said they are concerned their children would be isolated from others in their neighborhood as a result of the current proposal.
"Two weeks ago, the Board of Education changed the redistricting plan that isolates three streets (called Polygon 16 and 1016)," Kings Contrivance resident Leigh Roberts wrote in a letter to the editor to Explore Howard. "Under this plan, 20 students would attend Guilford Elementary while all of the other streets in Dickinson would attend Atholton or Hammond Elementary."
Kings Contrivance resident Laurie Buonaccorsi said in another letter to the editor that the plan creates a "small feed from Guilford to Hammond Middle," which she said was contrary to the goal of the current redistricting plan, which moves the population west to make room for eastern development
"This plan tears a community apart, isolates a group of 20 children, creates an island, increases transportation costs," she wrote in a letter to Explore Howard. "I urge the Howard County Public School System to keep our children with other members of the Dickinson community and allow them to attend school with their neighbors at either Atholton or Hammond Elementary."
Gallihue said "people don't like change" and he understands many are upset or angry over the proposed plan.
"We're listening for suggestions that are better than the staff suggestions," he said. "It's not a perfect plan, and if someone comes up with a perfect plan, I'll take it."
Speakers have a three-minute time limit at the hearing, Gallihue said.
Another public hearing will be held Nov. 15, according to Gallihue. The school board will be asked to approve the plan, which would take effect in the 2012-13 school year, on Nov. 17.