With only a month to go before the Harford County Board of Education makes a final decision on elementary school redistricting, a revised proposal has been issued by Superintendent Robert Tomback’s redistricting advisory committee known as STAC. The new proposal, the second revision to an earlier draft, eliminates overcrowding in all 33 county elementary schools and sets enrollment between 92% and 99.9% of capacity in all but nine schools. Under the revision released January 28, Roye-Williams Elementary in Havre de Grace would have the county’s lowest utilization rate, operating at 67.6% of capacity. (NOTE: Additional revisions were made on February 4)
Among the goals of redistricting are to eliminate overcrowding and to balance enrollment among elementary schools countywide. The redistricting plan will take effect for the 2011-12 school year, in concert with the opening of the new Red Pump Elementary School in Bel Air.
Below is a chart of the proposed enrollment figures for each elementary school under the January 28 revision. Following the chart is a countywide map and a list of the latest changes incorporated by STAC.
Few of the proposals submitted by the public and considered by STAC since the first revision, made their way into the second draft. A request from the High Point/Pleasantville community to remain at Forest Lakes Elementary was adopted after parents proposed a series of alternate moves that would allow their community to remain at FLES without overcrowding the school. The majority of the public proposals considered since the last revision were not recommended by STAC, on the basis that they would leave affected schools over capacity. Below is a matrix of the public proposals and STAC recommendations to date, with updates planned for later this week. Updated information will be posted here on The Dagger as soon as it becomes available:
In addition to redrawing elementary school attendance boundaries, the school board is expected to address parent requests to grandfather fourth and fifth graders to remain at their current schools until they progress to middle school. If approved, the cost of additional bus runs would have to be factored into next year’s budget. The parameters for boundary exceptions, which allow students to attend county schools outside their home district, may also be up for board review.
Prior the school board’s approval of a final elementary redistricting plan on February 28, the public will have several opportunities to address the latest proposal and to hear board deliberations. Public redistricting hearings are scheduled for (tonight) January 31 in the Havre de Grace HS auditorium at 7 p.m. and on February 14 at 7:30 p.m. the A.A. Roberty Building Board Room in Bel Air. A board work session on redistricting is planned for February 7. Public comments will not be accepted at the work session, but will be accepted at the February 28 business meeting where a final redistricting vote is planned. The February 28 meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the A.A. Roberty Building in Bel Air. Public comments can also be emailed to STAC and to board members through the school system’s web site at www.hcps.org.
The initial proposal moved 2920 students and left 5 schools over 100% of capacity, upset many with the cry of “stop the swap” from many areas.
As many of the original moves are now being recommended by STAC to be cancelled, reducing the total number of students redistricted, and all schools under the second revision are now projected to be under 100% of capacity, why wasn’t this approach considered for the initial proposal?
Can STAC only develop an efficient plan after upsetting large numbers of parents and having them point out the plan’s inefficiencies?
Public input is part of the process and the STAC can not be expected to know every inch of roadway and other special circumstances impacting specific students and families in Harford County. STAC had to start at some point with an initial plan which everyone knew would be adjusted when they received comment from stakeholders that they were actually looking for. The complexity of this undertaking can not be overstated. STAC has been responsive to many of these suggestions which only goes to show that they are trying to do the best job possible under difficult circumstances.
Public input to redistricting proposals had been countered in the past with the rationalization that parents were of the singular mindset of “don’t move me, move someone else”.
This time, the public input has overwhelmingly been parents saying “don’t move me, AND DON’T MOVE SOMEONE ELSE”.
Parents have again and again identified areas of superfluous movement of students out of and into school districts that the STAC is now removing from the proposal. This has nothing to do with “special circumstances”; it has everything to do with trying to repair a poorly developed initial proposal.
My point is that the latest modified redistricting proposal reduces some of the more obvious superfluous student movement which effectively 1) better balances enrollments and brings all elementary schools below 100% of capacity and 2) reduces the total number of students having to change schools.
This redistricting initiative has been on the horizon for several years with the planning of additional elementary capacity, and should not have come as a surprise to those developing a plan. If the initial proposal was developed to be both effective (bring all schools below 100%) and efficient (move the least number of students possible), then much public ire of the past few months could have been avoided, and the modifications required would have been greatly reduced.
Easily said by those that did not have to develop the plan. This process is much more involved than most suppose. I agree that redistricting need not have been attempted on such a large scale (potential redistricting should be examined on a regular basis) if this issue had been more honestly addressed in years past. Nor do I agree that the current plan needs to be as comprehensive as proposed. In actually there have relatively few major changes to the initial draft. Most have resulted in tweaking around the edges. As for the public ire there has actually been little except for few specific and well defined areas – most notability those in the Fallston area. It would seem that most of Harford County is either happy with the plan or does not care as the issue of moving students from perceived good schools to lesser schools is almost entirely avoided to the proposed redistricting