Most schools in the Linganore-Oakdale-Urbana area would have new attendance boundaries, balanced enrollment numbers and less crowding under Superintendent Terry Alban’s redistricting plan.
At Wednesday night’s Board of Education meeting, Alban gave her official recommendation to the board on how to move forward with this redistricting process.
She laid out her suggestion of how the area’s attendance boundaries should be changed as well as specifics on how to implement the plan.
“One of the things we really look at is trying to create feeder patterns where kids can stay together, [and] trying to balance the enrollment across the schools,” she said. “I am incredibly proud of the work the team has put into reviewing this, collaborating with people and gathering feedback.”
Before the presentation, many parents voiced their concerns during the public comment section of the meeting.
A Twin Ridge Elementary School student approached the lectern and asked the board to consider young children who will struggle with not knowing anyone at a new school.
“I’ve made friendships that can’t and shouldn’t be broken apart. ... To start with none of your friends in middle school will be a big adjustment,” she said.
Some, however, addressed the board more positively.
“I’m here to say thank you, actually. ... I can’t come up with a better solution than what you’re proposing that would keep us all together,” one parent said.
The purpose of the study, which has been in progress for nine months, was to establish attendance boundaries and feeder patterns for two new elementary schools — Sugarloaf Elementary School on Stone Barn Drive in Urbana, and Blue Heron Elementary School in the Lake Linganore Hamptons West neighborhood.
Redistricting to include the two new schools is expected to alleviate some crowding issues.
Sugarloaf Elementary is expected to open in September 2020, and Blue Heron Elementary in September 2021.
The replacement Urbana Elementary School will also open in September 2020, and an addition to Oakdale Middle School is to open in September 2021.
Under the superintendent’s plan, the biggest impact would come at the elementary level. Alban suggests attendance boundary changes for 10 schools in order to incorporate the two new schools as well as balance enrollments.
Specifically, a large portion of students who attend Centerville Elementary would move to the renovated Urbana Elementary under the superintendent’s recommendation.
The Deer Crossing neighborhood would also be split up, with a large portion attending the new Blue Heron Elementary.
At the middle school level, a large portion of Windsor Knolls Middle School students would move to New Market Middle School, but the Urbana Middle School boundary would stay largely intact.
For high schools, the biggest change would be felt by some Urbana High School students, who would be moved to Linganore High School under the proposed changes.
Alban said although the neighborhoods that would move from Urbana to Linganore are small, they matter in the long term.
“For the students who are going into high school right now, it might seem like, why are you doing this?” Alban said. “But for the children going into elementary school, now you will go into an elementary school, and a middle school, and a high school in more of a congruent feeder pattern — and so that’s why those couple of little pockets moved.”
She is suggesting the implementation of the plan take effect over two school years, with all students being required to attend their new schools by fall 2021.
She also recommends that incoming juniors and seniors for the 2020-2021 school year who are affected be allowed to remain at their current high school until graduation. These students, however, would be required to have their own transportation to school, be it themselves or their parents driving.
According to Beth Pasierb, Frederick County Public Schools supervisor of facilities planning, the superintendent’s recommendations would affect 1,500 elementary schoolers, 130 middle schoolers and 210 high schoolers. In total, those numbers equate to a little less than half of FCPS students.
After staff presented the recommendation to the board, board members continued their discussion for about half an hour, asking questions and addressing aspects such as the utility of maintaining special programs such as the magnet program at Urbana Elementary and whether that should be brought into the overall redistricting discussion.
Additionally, Pasierb and Paul Lebo, FCPS chief operating officer, explained the reasoning behind moving some neighborhoods versus others.
A major reason for many is to balance enrollment numbers at schools, and with Alban’s plan, enrollment numbers for every elementary school included in the study are expected to fall except Kemptown Elementary, which would remain at 102 percent capacity, and Liberty Elementary, which would increase from 96 percent to 102 percent capacity.
Alban said many school districts conduct redistricting to alleviate capacity problems.
“When you start to have schools that are over capacity, the state will look at you and say ‘have you redistricted, have you spread your students out and taken advantage of capacity that you have?’” Alban said.
Transportation, according to Lebo, is also considered — maintaining walkers at schools and moving neighborhoods that are already bused and will continue to be bused.
“Why did we ring around for Urbana Elementary School? Because then we’ve almost got a pure walker pattern for Centerville [Elementary],” she said.
Alban also explained that planned developments had to be taken into account.
“Some of that development near Sugarloaf isn’t done yet, and so we’d rather have a little more in Urbana right now to have some growing room,” she said.
Now that Alban has presented her recommendation, a series of public meetings focused on the redistricting will begin next week. Each meeting is two hours long and is designed for the board to get public feedback.
“This is probably one of the toughest things that the board has to do,” said Brad Young, school board president. “I assure you we want to do what’s best for every single kid.”
Alban said that while she knows parents are concerned, they must remember that their child will receive a quality education no matter what school they attend.
“All of [parents’] fears are going to be allayed when your child comes home and tells you about this teacher that they love or the new friends that they met,” Alban said. “The children are going to go to a place where they’re going to be welcomed, going to be nurtured and they’re going be taken care of.”