Howard County parents, bracing for proposed school boundary changes this fall, have asked school officials to consider what they say would be less disruptive options to ease overcrowding, including reopening closed schools, using split sessions and leasing temporary classroom space.
The recommendations were offered by parents in written comments made after three public meetings this month. At the meetings, options were discussed on how to cope with an expected 24 percent growth in county school enrollment in the next five years.
About 122 written comments were submitted to the county education department.
Maurice Kalin, assistant superintendent of planning, is scheduled to present a draft plan for the redistricting at today's school board meeting. The board will hold a public hearing Feb. 11 on the proposal, as well as two work sessions Feb. 8 and 16, before it adopts a final plan Feb. 25.
Kalin, who was fine-tuning the proposal early this week, said the three regional meetings and the written comments generated "a lot of good ideas," some of which may be included in his preliminary plan.
The number of students who may be affected by the proposed boundary changes is uncertain, but elementary and middle school students will be affected the most in the next two years, according to school officials. That is because of the changes needed to accommodate Bollman Bridge Elementary School, scheduled to open in Savage this fall, and the 1989 opening of Patuxent Valley Middle School.
At a Jan. 6 meeting, Kalin said Howard education officials have tried to limit redistricting for the county's 26,000 students.
In the past six years, Kalin said, the board has moved elementary school pupils twice.
Many parents have complained that school officials have switched boundaries too often, disrupting neighborhood schools and discouraging parent involvement in school activities.
Some parents said they believed the emotional issue had been settled last year, when the school board adopted a plan to transfer about 850 students, mainly in the southeastern portion of the county.
But Kalin said the county's growth is causing more overcrowding despite the school system's increased use of portable classrooms and plans to build more schools.
By 1993, school officials plan to build four new elementary schools, in addition to Bollman Bridge.
The long-range capital improvements budget also calls for construction of four middle schools and two high schools by 1996.
However, a large number of the parents who submitted written comments on proposed boundary changes recommended that education officials consider other options in lieu of student "We are not units to be moved about to make projections come out."
-- Parent opposed to boundary changes
transfers to ease overcrowding.
"We are not units to be moved about to make projections come out," wrote one parent.
Several parents suggested that the school board consider asking the County Council to adopt a two-year moratorium on new housing construction to give the school system a chance to catch up with growth projections.
While many parents urged school officials to speed up the school construction schedule, others recommended more use of portable classrooms or reopening two elementary schools -- Faulkner Ridge and Rockland -- that were closed in 1983 because of low enrollments.
School spokeswoman Patti Vierkant said education officials are studying proposals to reopen the former school buildings, although renovation may be more costly than new construction.
And with school enrollments expected to decline in the next century, several parents recommended that school officials recycle school buildings or lease classroom space.
For example, one parent suggested that the county build new schools on structures that later could be used for other purposes, such as warehouses or light manufacturing plants.