Parents speak out on school redistricting plans
Forums held over two nights to seek input on two options
More than 50 people shared their thoughts during two public hearings on Charles County Public Schools’ two redistricting proposals, and the majority of speakers were not happy with either of the two alternatives.
CCPS held public hearings Monday at Westlake High School and Tuesday at St. Charles High School on the two plans presented to the Charles County Board of Education earlier this month by the school redistricting committee.
The committee was comprised of parents, community members, principals and school system staff and charged with redrawing the boundary lines for elementary schools, due to the projected fall 2018 opening of the new Billingsley Elementary School in White Plains.
The comprehensive redistricting meant that all schools, not just those
near the new school, were under consideration for boundary changes.
The comprehensive redistricting was necessary, Director of Transportation Bradley Snow said, because most of the county’s elementary schools are above their State Rated Capacity — the maximum number of students that can be housed in a school without negatively impacting academics, according to the Interagency Committee on Public School Construction.
“All but five schools are beyond full capacity, and three of the five are in the 90 percent range,” Snow said.
Alternative A would have the new Billingsley Elementary School draw primarily from neighborhoods currently assigned to Berry Elementary east of Middletown Road and Dr. James Craik east of Middletown Road and south of Billingsley Road but also drawing from neighborhoods currently assigned to Arthur Middleton and William B. Wade elementary schools.
C. Paul Barnhart, Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, William A. Diggs, Dr. Gustavus Brown, J.C. Parks, Mary H. Matula, Walter J. Mitchell, Mary B. Neal, Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, J.P. Ryon and Eva Turner elementary schools would also be affected by the redistricting.
Under Alternative B, the new Billingsley Elementary would draw mostly from Craik, particularly neighborhoods south of Twinbrook Drive and Billingsley Road, while also drawing from some neighborhoods feeding Berry, Diggs and Wade.
Middleton, Ryon, Brown, Matula, Neal, Mitchell, Parks, Higdon, Indian Head, Malcolm, Martin, Brown and Mudd would also be affected under Alternative B.
Janet Johnson of the Charles Crossing community asked that students who will be fifth graders in 2018 be allowed to finish out their final year at their old elementar y school.
“I don’t need the added stress of having to deal with the emotional effects of having a child moved for one year,” Johnson said.
Michael McCarthy, parent of a 5-year-old attending Malcolm and a 2-yearold, said his family bought their home because it was only 3 miles from Malcolm.
“Why should my children potentially have to go to a school that’s four times away, compared to the one in my backyard?” McCarthy said.
Dan Wilson, whose son attends Matula, also questioned why his son should have to go to a school farther away.
“He loves his school, he adores his teachers, adores his friends, and they adore him. He’s excelling with the kids from his neighborhood,” Wilson said. “Let my child enjoy his education and let us enjoy our quality of life.”
Joanne Watson said this would be the third time her family has been redistricted.
“They moved us from Brown originally, when the district was built, to Neal, and now back to Brown again,” Watson said. “My son has anxiety issues, now he’ll have to start a whole other school again … Why do you keep moving us and upheaving all of our kids?”
Watson said she prefers Plan B, which she said looks more cohesive, rather than Plan A, which she described as “piecemeal.”
Tisha Jones-Diggs, a resident of the Autumn Hills community, said the school system currently allows teachers to enroll their children in the school where they work.
“I’m concerned that those numbers were not taken into consideration when looking at the rezoning,” Jones-Diggs said.
Cathy Scott of Pomfret said her child has thrived at Craik.
“Craik is a community to us. We bought into that area for the school,” Scott said. “Our kids are not numbers. I’m asking you to think about what you’re doing to individual families.”
Diana Smith asked if the school system might consider grandfathering in students entering fifth grade in 2018.
“It’s unfair to children, but especially fifth graders, to be taken out of the school where they’ve been since they were 3 years old,” Smith said.
Anthony Craft, a resi-
dent of Gleneagles South, said his daughter attends Mary H. Matula Elementary School.
“Matula is one of the top schools in the county, so if my daughter goes to Mitchell or … Brown, my concern is will she be challenged the same as she is at Matula?” Craft asked.
Rachel Smith-Donald said she purchased a home in the Hillside neighborhood because she had heard good things about the school system.
“I do not think that the choices Charles County has been making lately is in the best interests of the children,” Smith-Donald said. “I hope that in your decision-making, that you have taken into consideration all avenues and … children first.”
Latoya Adams said her children would go from Berry to Barnhart under the redistricting proposals.
“We have no alternatives, we have no choice. Our children will go from a non-Title I school to a Title I school,” Adams said. “Our children would have to walk past several sex offenders’ residences.”
Diane O’Connell thanked the board for their hard work and making hard decisions.
“There are different programs that can be done to help kids feel better when they move to a new school,” O’Donnell said.
Board chairman Michael Lukas said the school board would take the opinions expressed at the hearings into consideration.
“We do appreciate you coming out and expressing your views,” Lukas said.
The board will continue to accept written testimony until May 1, Lukas said.
On May 9, Superintendent Kimberly Hill is expected to present her redistricting recommendation to the board. A public hearing on her recommendation is scheduled for May 22, and the board is expected to approve a plan during its June 13 meeting. The plan would go into effect at the start of the 2018-2019 school year.
More information on both redistricting alternatives can be found on the school system’s website: http://www.ccboe.com/ redistricting/