The following letter was sent to the Harford County Board of Education and several elected officials by 13 residents of the Madonna Manor Community. A copy was provided to The Dagger for publication:
Dear Harford County Board of Education and Redistricting STAC:
The Madonna Manor Community, located between Madonna Road and Salem Church Road in Jarrettsville, respectfully requests that elementary age children from the Madonna Manor neighborhood and community remain districted to Jarrettsville Elementary School. In addition, we maintain that the current proposed plan for redistricting Harford County Elementary Schools in not viable and sustainable as proposed and we ask that the redistricting plan not be approved by the Board of Education. If the redistricting plan is approved in some form, we request that all Northern Harford County Elementary Schools, including but not limited to Jarrettsville (JVES), North Bend (NB) and Norrisville, be excluded from the proposed redistricting.
These requests are based on several valid concerns that the proposed redistricting will lead to a decline in the quality of education in Harford County, Maryland. Further, the proposed redistricting plan – as outlined – fails to address many considerations that would be critical for a successful redistricting and long term educational success. The proposed plan for redistricting lacks sufficient scope and detail, does not address key data points, and fails to include an implementation plan.
The remainder of this letter outlines our community’s concerns and questions related to the proposed Harford County, Maryland Elementary School Redistricting in support of our request that it not be approved. In several instances, we are requesting a detailed written response or excerpt from an existing analysis.
Please review and address each of the following items:
1. According to the proposed plan as quoted here, “The BOE established the Comprehensive Elementary School Redistricting Initiative to meet several goals:
• Provide relief for Prospect Mill ES and the adjacent schools in its region
• Develop the new attendance area for Red Pump ES
• Provide relief for Emmorton ES
• Balance enrollment with capacity in remaining elementary schools.”
As only the fourth bullet applies to the majority of schools affected, please define “balanced enrollment.”
2. Northern County schools are moving away from a “comfortable” level of capacity, to near, at, or above 100% capacity. How can increasing school capacity to near, at, or greater than 100% be good for children or the community, and what allowances have been made for continued growth? Why are several schools being redistricted to 100% or higher?
3. How are the schools able to accommodate larger than current capacity in the proposed plan? (i.e. the current capacity number for JVES is 520. What allowed that 520 to change to 548 in the proposed plan?) Note that actual capacity will be greater than 100% in many schools based on current capacity numbers.
4. Provide specific information on the data sources and methodology used to determine the proposed boundary lines and proposed population counts of the revised districts.
5. Why is the redistricting county-wide rather than focused on problem areas in South and Central County? This conflicts with the original objectives.
6. The goal is intended to support children, when in fact it will disrupt children and result in longer bus rides, potential for redistricted kids to be placed inappropriately at the new school, and an overall disconnect in the continuity of their education.
7. Shifts in students, teachers and other resources will negatively impact the quality of education. Each school has teams by grade level that collaborate and spend significant time ensuring continuity among classes and students within the school. The redistricting will disrupt teams, displace teachers and students, and result in at least a one to two year loss in results. Results include school performance, student performance and community satisfaction. We request a written plan to address these issues prior to any redistricting approval.
8. At schools such as JVES and NB, where measurable performance is above-average for the county, what is being proposed to ensure those levels do not decline as a result of the displacement from redistricting? What is the expected impact? Provide a written plan to address these issues prior to redistricting approval. If there is no written plan in place to address how the significant increase in capacity will impact school performance, then the proposed redistricting is not viable.
9. Why has the County allowed substantial growth in housing and development without requiring the same appropriate level of new school facilities and educational funding? Specifically, Fallston growth has impacted Youth’s Benefit’s (YB) capacity. Why not specifically address YB rather than disrupt families, students, entire communities as well as the quality of education at YB, JVES, NB and Norrisville?
10. Why is one small community from North Bend being redistricted to JVES, and one small community from JVES being redistricted to NB? These appear to be similarly-sized group. Describe the benefits to these specific proposed changes that justify disrupting both of these communities and creating the resulting bus route and daycare issues.
11. Provide an explanation for why YB capacity is dropping to less than 100% in relation to the current building and development moratorium. Specifically address whether consideration in any form was given to the possibility of the moratorium being lifted as a result of the redistricting of YB students to JVES and other schools.
12. Why was the proposed building and development of additional structural facilities for YB put on hold?
13. YB does not want to move to JVES. They are not unhappy with their current capacity and the school performance indicates they are sustainable. Wouldn’t providing additional resources to this one school result in less disruption and gaps in education than disrupting several schools in the Northern part of the county?
14. What consideration has been given to the impact annual growth in elementary age school children for each of the proposed new districts will have on the proposed 95%-100% capacity at JVES, NB and Norrisville schools? Please include data on projected growth rates (by district) for the next 5-7 years and how the proposed capacities will be sustained over time.
15. How will the well and septic of the schools handle the increase in school population? Provide a written plan to address these issues prior to redistricting approval.
16. What new school facilities are currently planned or in planning stages for the next three to five years? How has this been incorporated into the redistricting plan?
17. What analysis was performed to ensure that the proposed redistricting will satisfy growth demands and other variables to remain sustainable for the proposed 10 year period? In other words, support the proposed plan as being a long-term solution that will not need to be amended in three, five or seven years.
18. Consider closing Norrisville and moving those children to JVES and NB. While this would require some children to have longer bus routes, it would be in a concentrated area only. Norrisville facilities could be used for staff development. Students would be moving to two high-performance schools where teams would remain intact. Additional resources from Norrisville could be incorporated into these two schools with disruption to the least amount of students and educational quality.
19. What consideration has been given to daycare issues related to single-source daycare such as Salem Lutheran Children’s Center servicing families of JVES students? If no boundary exceptions are permitted, there will be significant hardship on the current JVES community using daycare. If boundary exceptions are permitted, how will this impact the proposed capacity levels?
20. What consideration has been given to additional staff training to ensure continuity among teachers moving among schools with various levels of progress on curriculum initiatives?
21. If redistricting is approved, what resources will be dedicated to assisting students and educators with the transition? Provide a written plan to address these issues prior to redistricting approval.
22. What is the expected impact to the individual school budgets and resources? In particular, how will the increased quantities of material resources such as books, manuals, seating, etc. be allocated and when? Provide a written plan to address these issues prior to redistricting approval.
23. Provide a written plan outlining implementation of the new redistricting including students, bus routes, teacher and staff re-allocation, and funding. Include a timeline and hard dates for key milestones.
24. Provide a brief overview of the qualifications of each STAC member to justify that the proposed redistricting process has been performed by a sufficiently qualified team. Provide actual experience, technical skills and other similar qualification of each member of the committee. Include information on any outside resources that were used to support the STAC team such as engineers, statisticians, psychologists, etc. and the extent to which each was involved.
25. Are any persons outside of the Harford County Board of Education included in the decision making for the proposed redistricting? How many members comprise the Harford County Board of Education? Provide information on how many of these seats are appointed versus elected.
The concerns outlined above summarize our opposition to the proposed redistricting plan. We the residents and families of Madonna Manor would again ask that the proposed redistricting plan not be approved. In addition, we would appreciate the courtesy of a written response that addresses our questions and concerns.
Thank you in advance for your consideration.