HOWARD COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — A crowd turned out at a Howard County school board meeting Tuesday to protest a controversial school redistricting plan.
According to the school district’s website, the redistricting plan will reassign just over 7,300 students in the county’s elementary, middle and high schools.
The proposed redistricting plan would go into effect for the 2020-2021 school year.
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Over the next three weeks, the board is holding public hearings so that parents and community members can express their ideas and any concerns they might have.
Howard County Superintendent Michael Martirano is presenting recommendations that he said will balance school capacity, relieve overcrowding and address inequities in the distribution of students affected by poverty in Howard County schools.
WJZ requested an interview with the superintendent about his plan but were told he was not available.
In a statement on the school’s website he wrote:
“While previous boundary review processes focused more narrowly on capacity utilization, my proposal is in alignment with our strategic call to action leading with equity as our driver to provide all students with full access and opportunity to receive the best educational services and supports.”
Currently, 32 of its schools are either below 90 percent capacity or over 110 percent of their capacity, and the distribution of some students participating in free and reduced-price meals range from below five percent at some schools to up to 68 percent at others.
But at this point, some parents are feeling they have more questions about the plan than they do answers.
“Among the many reasons that we object to this plan is the splitting up of the neighborhood and the huge overwhelming burden they are going to put on people who walk to school,” said parent BreeAnne Chadwick.
Among their concerns include traffic and transportation, and in the Valley Meade neighborhood, a group of parents says the community they’ve built will be split between various schools.
“This is a living and loving and thriving community that you want to fracture down the middle for an unnecessary reason,” said parent Jenise Dunn.
Other parents echoed those concerns.
“Ripping students out of their communities, putting them on long bus rides across the county, that poses real risks to their health both emotionally and physically,” said Dr. Hermant Charma.
Some students also took to the podium to share their thoughts.
Meanwhile, police are also investigating a threat made against the superintendent on social media related to the redistricting plan. The threat initially appeared to be a joke, police said.