School Redistricting Debated Before Final Vote In Anne Arundel County
ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, MD - The Board of Education will vote Wednesday evening on a school redistricting plan for northern Anne Arundel County. The approved plan will take effect in the school year starting in August 2024.
Two proposals are in play. Both have the same school boundaries, and thousands would have to change schools either way.
The only difference is one lets affected seniors stay in their current school as legacy students. The other lets affected juniors and seniors continue at their school.
Officials say the redistricting is necessary to combat overcrowding and draw boundaries for new schools opening next year.
Opponents worry about juniors switching schools, increased traffic and neighborhoods changing feeder systems.
Mark Bedell, superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools, released his proposal in July.
"This has been an enormous amount of work on the part of a lot of people and I am grateful for their efforts to get us to this point," Bedell said in a press release announcing his plan. "We have promised that this would be a transparent process with many avenues for public input, and the input we have received so far has played a significant part in the crafting of this recommendation. Throughout this part of the process, we put students first in all decisions we have made."
Legacy Student Debate
Bedell only included seniors as legacy students in his original pitch.
The school board later added the second option with juniors as legacy students at the community's request.
Legacy students would not be provided bus transportation, so they would need to coordinate their own rides to school. Affected freshmen and sophomores would have to change schools under either plan.
Some families are worried about the social effects of changing schools for juniors already cemented in extracurriculars and long-standing friendships.
AACPS mother Michele Rowley wrote to board members asking them to include juniors as legacy students.
"Our youngest and last AACPS student will be a junior at Northeast High School in 2024 and has attended school with the same classmates since pre-K at Solley Elementary," Rowley said in her letter. "It seems inconsiderate and unfair to disrupt an academically successful and well adjusted student during their last 2 years of high school…especially after the disruption during the COVID shut down. This surely could affect not only a student’s continued academic success but also their mental health and social well being."
Neighborhoods Changing Feeder Systems
Bedell's plan would force about 6,400 students to change schools at some point. That's fewer than any of the other scenarios previously considered, AACPS said.
Thirteen schools are currently over capacity in North County. The redistricting proposal would reduce overcrowding and bring each of those schools under 100% capacity.
There are currently 41 schools in this area that are well-utilized or optimally utilized, meaning they are filled between 70% and 100% of their capacity. The redistricting proposal would add an extra 13 schools that are well or optimally utilized.
The plan revisits high school boundary lines for the Chesapeake, Glen Burnie, Meade, North County, Northeast and Old Mill clusters.
Pasadena's Farmington Village neighborhood is one of the communities slated for a school change.
The redistricting plan has them shifting to Chesapeake Bay Middle School and Chesapeake High School, which are both 5.9 miles away down Mountain Road.
Scott Taylor is the father of a current sophomore at Northeast High School. His daughter would have to switch to Chesapeake High School if juniors are not included as legacy students.
"Farmington Village in Pasadena is being redistricted to the Chesapeake High School district," Taylor wrote in a letter to the Board of Education. "I'll be honest, I was surprised by this because I know how bad Mountain Rd traffic is. Farmington Village students are walkers to Northeast Middle School as we are less than a mile from the middle school. The high school is less than 5 minutes away from our house."
Farmington Village families think switching from the nearby Northeast feeder system to the further Chesapeake feeder system would add buses to the already-congested Mountain Road.
Bedell, however, said his plan would have "no additional buses on Mountain Road in Pasadena, consistent with a study done for Anne Arundel County and the State Highway Administration that indicates concerns about safety and vehicular load."
Community member Mara Whiteman also wrote to the school board. She called the Farmington Village shift "a negative for the students, and everyone who lives on the peninsula and relies on Mountain Rd."
"The proposal will make a significant impact on Mountain Rd traffic ..., yet we're proposing sending 150 new students down Mountain Rd each day," Whiteman said in her letter. "I'd rather see the underutilized Chesapeake schools used for storage as suggested at a board meeting, than drafting more students to fill Mountain Rd and the Chesapeake school halls. Sending Farmington Village to Chesapeake is not the best decision for Pasadena."
Other Redistricting Changes
The redistricting proposal would also create two split articulations as students move from elementary school through high school.
MacArthur Middle School students living in the Frank Hebron-Harman Elementary School and Van Bokkelen Elementary School boundary areas would attend Old Mill West High School instead of Meade High School.
Corkran Middle School students living in the Oakwood Elementary School and Woodside Elementary School boundaries would go to Old Mill High School rather than Glen Burnie High School.
Following public feedback, Freetown Elementary School students would still move on to Marley Middle School and Glen Burnie High School.
The redistricting proposal would also set the boundaries for Old Mill West High School and West County Elementary School, which are set to open in fall 2024.
- School Redistricting Proposal Would Reduce Overcrowded Classrooms In Anne Arundel County
- School Redistricting Proposal Moves Forward, Officials Seek Feedback In Anne Arundel
The school board is scheduled for a final vote on a redistricting plan at its Wednesday meeting, which starts at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be in the Board Room of the Parham Building, located in Annapolis at 2644 Riva Road.
The Board of Education held a redistricting hearing on Oct. 16, so it will not accept further public comments on redistricting at Wednesday's meeting.
The second phase of redistricting focusing on South County will begin in February 2025. This will examine the high school boundaries for the Annapolis, Arundel, Broadneck, Crofton, Severna Park, South River and Southern clusters.
More information on the redistricting plan is posted at aacps.org/redistricting.
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