The Charles County Board of Education Tuesday rejected a controversial rezoning proposal that would have meant busing students from two of the county's four high schools.

The board voted 4-to-3 against the "phase-in" rezoning plan, which was submitted by outgoing school Superintendent Jesse L. Starkey.

School spokesman C. Ashley Smith said that the board offered no alternatives to the plan during its meeting. "It's in limbo," he said. "It will stay as it is unless they take other action." The board is not scheduled to meet again until next month.

Smith said the main reason the board turned down the proposal was that public opposition outweighed public support.

The plan has stirred emotions among many Charles County parents who do not want to see their children bused 10 to 15 miles to high school. Last month, more than 400 parents and students turned up at a public hearing to express their opposition to the plan.

The superintendent's plan was designed to ease severe overcrowding at Thomas Stone High School by redrawing school districts and busing incoming ninth graders to McDonough High School. Then, ninth graders who originally would have been assigned to McDonough would have been bused to Lackey High School. After four years, all high school students would have been affected by the new school zones.