HOWARD COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — Dozens of students, parents and Howard County community members voiced their concerns about a controversial school redistricting plan at another public hearing on the proposal Thursday night.

Protesters outside the meeting held signs reading “Kids Before Politics” and “Improve, Not Move.”

“We understand what the Board of Education is trying to do but we also understand that what they’re trying to do is not going to accomplish the goals,” said grandparent Beverly Menke.

The proposal would reassign more than 7,300 students in an effort to balance school capacity, relieve overcrowding and address inequities in the distribution of students affected by poverty, Superintendent Michael Martirano has said.

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The plan has drawn fiery opposition and accusations of racism, with one board member saying offensive comments were made toward an Asian American family.

He called for respect and unity before the public comment period.

“I believe that Howard County residents can do better. I believe that Howard County residents have the courage and intent to find a better solution,” said board member Dr. Chao Wu.

On the district’s website, the superintendent is quoted as saying the proposal “is in alignment with our strategic call to action leading with equity as a driver to provide all students with full access and opportunity to receive the best educational services and supports.”

In total, nearly 100 people signed up to speak, most of them students.

“Our polygon is a mere 10-minute drive from River Hill, whereas the trip to Wilde Lake would take up to ten times the bus time each day,” one student said.

Howard County parent and pediatrician Dr. Hemant Sharma disputed whether the plan would address the issues it seeks to solve and urged the board to take his reservations into consideration.

“It doesn’t effectively address overcrowding, it doesn’t effectively address equity, and it poses real harm to our children,” he said.

The board will hold a number of work sessions before making a final decision November 21.

If approved, the plan would go into effect for the next school year.

Rachel Menitoff

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