Par­ents speak out on school re­dis­trict­ing plans

Fo­rums held over two nights to seek input on two op­tions

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

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/

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