Southern Maryland News
Elem. school redistrict plans presented
Billingsley school opening to draw from several elementary schools
Charles County Public Schools is asking the community to weigh in on two plans for dealing with school overcrowding and a new elementary school in White Plains.
Last fall, the school system formed a redistricting committee comprised of parents, school system staff, community members and other stakeholders, to develop and recommend two redistricting plans.
The two proposals were presented to the school board at its April 4 meeting.
The committee met once a week over a three month period to develop the two alternatives, said Michael Heim, assistant superintendent of supporting services.
“It’s never an easy decision to … recommend moving students from one school to another, and they were tasked with making some difficult decisions,” Heim said. “It was done in the
interests of balancing enrollment at schools, to get them as close to their state rated capacity as possible.”
The redistricting committee was given three guidelines: All neighborhoods were eligible for redistricting except those designated as walking zones; when possible, neighborhoods were not to be divided between different schools; and the redistricting should account for current and future residential development.
Brad Snow, director of transportation, said this was a comprehensive elementary school redistricting.
“What that means is that our current priority was to create the attendance zones for Billingsley and that the committee was to also look at the other elementary attendance zones and make any adjustments they saw fit,” 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.
Committee member Kathy Perriello, principal of Henry E. Lackey High School, said the committee went beyond looking at maps when developing Alternative A.
“We actually went out to drive in some of the communities that would be impacted by this,” Perriello said.
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.
Gale-Bailey, Dr. Thomas Higdon, Indian Head, Malcolm, T.C. Martin and Mt. Hope/ Nanjemoy elementary schools’ attendance zones would not be affected under Alternative A.
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.
Berry would instead give up neighborhoods to Barnhart and Jenifer.
“We did provide significant room for growth, because we know that when you open up a new school, developments spring up like mushrooms,” said Kenneth Schroeck, principal of Benjamin Stoddert Middle School, of Alternative B.
Middleton, Ryon, Brown, Matula, Neal, Mitchell, Parks, Higdon, Indian Head, Malcolm, Martin, Brown and Mudd would also be affected under Alternative B.
Under Alternative B, attendance zones for Gale-Bailey, Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy and Turner would remain unchanged.
Two neighborhoods are divided between zones in Alternative A: In Matula’s current zone, the portion of the neighborhood off St. Luke Drive will go to Middleton while the portion off St. Linus Drive will go to Neal; and in Neal’s current zone, the portion of the neighborhood behind the Smallwood Village Shopping Center and between St. Paul’s Drive and Renner Road would be reassigned to Turner.
Alternative B does not split neighborhoods.
Bradley Snow, director of transportation services, said the new districting would go into effect in 2018, when the new Billingsley Elementary is scheduled to open.
Steven Andritz, director of planning and construction, said the plans are being made a year ahead of time to give parents, students and the community time to adjust to any changes.
“We wanted to put this information out a year before the new school opens so everyone had ample time to be prepared, to see what the changes are, and any adjustments that need to be made,” Andritz said.
Two public hearings will be held on the two proposals, one April 24 at Westlake High School and one April 25 at St. Charles High School; both hearings begin at 6:30 p.m.
Hill is scheduled to make her recommendation to the board on May 22, with a school board vote on the plan scheduled for June 13.
Board chairman Michael Lukas said the redistricting was needed.
“Lest anyone question why we need to do this, we have 21 elementary schools, all but five are over their state rated capacity,” Lukas said.
Copies of both alternatives can be found on the school system website’s redistricting page: http://www.ccboe.com/ redistricting/RedistrictingFINAL.pdf