School redistricting. The mere mention of these words is enough to make parents angry and school administrators nervous for even considering the idea.

“This is probably one of the toughest things that the board has to do,” Brad Young, president of the Frederick County Board of Education, told us last week. “I assure you we want to do what’s best for every single kid.”

He’ll get no argument on that from us. The complaints from parents and students about how redistricting students can separate friends, potentially move students to schools farther from their homes and even split communities all have merit.

These concerns are enough to rile even the most supportive parents. In the case of Superintendent Terry Alban’s plan for the Linganore-Oakdale-Urbana area, as many as 1,500 elementary schoolers, 130 middle schoolers and 210 high schoolers could be affected by the moves.

School redistricting — here in Frederick County as well as everywhere else — always grabs the attention of parents. One needs only to look down the road in Howard County, where hundreds of parents marched on school headquarters last week, shouting slogans and carrying signs, to protest changes there. It’s the latest example of how contentious school redistricting can be.

But the school redistricting process doesn’t always have to be confrontational. And that’s our hope as Frederick County Public Schools winds its way through this process.

At the heart of the redistricting process is 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. These changes will also ease crowding at other schools while changing the boundaries for 10 elementary schools. A smaller portion of middle and high school boundaries will be affected, too.

But more importantly, the plan would, as Alban said at a recent meeting, enable a long-term fix that would “create feeder patterns where kids can stay together” while balancing enrollment at each school.

We’re encouraged that Alban and the school board are willing to take on redistricting. As we’ve said, it’s not an easy subject to discuss. But with kids too often taking classes in trailers, and as housing development proposals continue to put the squeeze on particular areas of the county, it’s a conversation that needs to happen.

As for Alban’s particular plan, we’ll reserve judgment until the community has had a chance to weigh in. We’ll freely admit that we don’t have the perspective that parents and administrators have in this discussion.

This is why we hope the public takes advantage of the opportunity to offer their perspective. It’s vital to the process.

The board held a public hearing Tuesday night in Urbana and has meetings planned for tonight at Linganore High School and on Sept. 24 at Oakdale High School. The hearings go from 7 to 9 p.m., with speakers’ sign-up beginning at 6:30 p.m.

School redistricting can cure a lot of current ills. But it’s the dialogue that’s happening now that ultimately will make any decision a stronger one.

(4) comments

Hillary Trump

Howard County is using their "redistricting plan" as busing though you're not allowed to call it that.

rcfoster

My daughter has gone through a number of these redistricting programs. In elementary and middle school, she never spent more than one year in the same school. Sometimes she would go to another school only to be put back in the previous school the following year. There is always a bubble of kids that move through the system. If you're going to make a change, make the change based on student population and plan ahead for at least 4 years. Don't make the same thing happen to those kids that happened to her. She was shy to start with and changing schools and losing friends each year (and going to school with kids in other parts of the county) didn't help her at all.

FCPSAdmin

It’s important to keep in mind that Alban and her staff have already made decisions on this redistricting. In fact, they did so long ago. Any public comment or input is a veneer, a way for Alban to allow the Board of Education to rubber-stamp her decision with the appearance of public engagement. The voices of community members, parents, teachers or students are utterly irrelevant (unless, of course, they agree with Alban and her staff).

gabrielshorn2013

Ahhh... another fake FCPS representative.

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