After months of anticipation, the seven members of the Howard County Board of Education (BOE) voted on a redistricting plan at their meeting on November 21, which will result in the movement of 5,402 students to a new school for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year. The decision affects the movement of students throughout the entire county as follows: 2,827 at the elementary school level, 568 at the middle school level, and 2,007 at the high school level.
The Pointers Run neighborhood in the Village of River Hill is significantly impacted as a result of the final vote, as 4 polygons from that part of the village will be redistributed to Swansfield Elementary School. Additionally, students residing in the village that are currently assigned to Atholton High School in Polygons 64, 1064, 128, 129, 1129, 190 and 1190 will be reassigned to River Hill High School. Rising Seniors, rising Juniors, rising 8th graders and rising 5th graders will be exempt from reassignment and will be allowed to remain at their current school if they wish to do so for next year. HCPSS will continue to provide bus transportation to those students who have been exempted from the change in schools despite a “nationwide shortage of bus drivers,” according to David Ramsey, Director of Transportation for HCPSS. All students exempted from the redistricting will continue to receive transportation services provided that parents opt in by the deadline, which is still to be determined.
The Pointers United group, formed in late August, sought to keep students living in Polygons 64, 1064, 129 and 1129 at Pointers Run Elementary School rather than sending them to Swansfield. Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Michael Martirano, first proposed the move of those students during his presentation of the proposed Boundary Adjustment Plan.
At the conclusion of the meeting, some members of the BOE expressed their frustration with the entire process while others remarked about the compromise that was reached. Christina Delmont-Small, a BOE member, said, “I believe we have failed our students and community. We have moved students, who live less than a mile, out of their community school. We have put walkers on buses and based our decisions on data that did not accurately reflect the current statistics.” BOE member, Dr. Chao Wu, a resident of the Village of River Hill, described the public testimony hearings and public work sessions as “a soul-searching process.” He outlined five improvements to work toward for the future including the revision of Policy 6010, which defines the conditions and process by which school attendance area adjustments will be developed and adopted, the revision of the selection process for Attendance Area Committee members, improvement of the software tool used for reporting student data in real-time, improvement of the way in which the entire community is informed of any potential redistricting by providing information in multiple languages and by using a variety of communication platforms, and to strive for logical development in Howard County as a means to avoid overcrowded schools.
The Superintendent issued a statement to all HCPSS community members which can be found on page 15 of this month’s issue of The Villager.