UPDATE (10:52 p.m.)—In the latest twist to what has been a gut-wrenching process for many Harford County parents, the Board of Education unanimously voted Monday night to move the "final decision" on elementary school redistricting to March 14. The board also approved 11 amendments to the plan, including grandfathering next year's fifth-graders into their existing school.
The board had to waive the 180-day minimum before the opening of the school year for a final vote in order to prolong a final decision.
In the first amendment of the night, the board voted 6–1 to allow grandfathering of fifth-graders at the option of the parents with transportation provided by the school system. Only board member Robert Frisch opposed the vote. He said during the discussion that he was not in favor school-funded transportation due to expenses and safety, though he was still in favor of grandfathering fifth-graders.
“Grandfathering is no different than any other boundary exception,” he said. “We offer the opportunity for children to keep them in the school, but our policy for boundary exceptions is that that’s the responsibility of the parent to provide transportation.”
The remaining board members said providing transportation is an obligation of the school system.
“It’s not their fault that they’re in this position, that they have to be moved to another school,” board member Donald Osman said. “It’s our responsibility to provide them with any means we need to, to be sure they stay in their home schools.”
All 10 alternatives on districts presented by the board won unanimously approval with little additional discussion.
In somewhat of an afterthought, the board also agreed to keep its existing boundary exceptions policy, without a vote.
Chief of Administration Joseph Licata said the recommendation of Superintendent Robert Tomback and his technical advisory committee is to "maintain the current boundary exception policy in strict accordance with that policy."
See photos and list below for accepted amendments.
Public comment preceded the unveiling of the proposed amendments, and board President Mark Wolkow reiterated beforehand that negativity toward other communities would not be allowed. The PTA president of Hickory Elementary School, however, respectfully criticized another community’s idea.
“It was brought to our attention that a proposal was presented to you challenging STAC’s proposal to move Deer Park [and] Deer Run,” Kelly Ewing said, referring to the Superintendent's Technical Advisory Committee's draft plan. “A community who felt they were safe will now be uplifted … This is not a swap. This is a community that was not on the radar screen.”
Ewing said she was surprised to see a proposal to move these communities so late in the process.
“Never did I believe this community would be added to the change list this late in the process,” she said. “I do not live in Deer Run, I do not live in Deer Manor. … We are asking that you keep those kids at Hickory Elementary School.”
She also asked the board to provide an option to grandfather fifth-graders, even if parents have to provide transportation, eliciting applause from the nearly 200 people at the meeting. The board complied with all Ewing's requests with their votes.
Another parent asked that children in her neighborhood not be moved to Prospect Mill Elementary School.
“We are requesting to remain at Fountain Green Elementary School. [It] has a 36 percent declining enrollment,” Laura Barnaba said. “Next year, with no action taken in our district, we will be at the correct capacity.”
She cited the unsafe route school buses would have to travel for their children to go to school.
“Please do not uproot our children,” she added.
Barnaba got her wish, too.
Wolkow also briefly addressed the notion that Campus Hills Elementary School was still under construction, as brought up by a parent in public comment.
“The school system has access to that land,” he said.
Licata said the original project was linked with parks and recreation, which will continue its work.
“They’re going to proceed with their portion of the project,” he said. “The permits will be for that project. So the school does not even have a scheduled construction date as of yet.”
Seven parents signed up for comment, and six testified. The board will continue to accept feedback via e-mail.
- Amendment 1 – Return Trestle Road area to Forest Hill Elementary School from North Bend Elementary School and North Harford Elementary School, to include parcels on west side of Rocks Road up to Brocks Road, including Stone Haven Drive and Azure Court. Include Parcels up to and including those on Brocks Way.
- Amendment 2 – Return Fountain Green Heights area to Fountain Green Elementary School. Return Campus Hills Estates area to Prospect Mill Elementary School. Return Goat Hill Road area to Churchville Elementary School.
- Amendment 3 – Return northeast area of Rte. 40 to Hall’s Cross Roads Elementary School from Roye Williams Elementary School. Moving special programs to Roye Williams with the capacity will open up with these moves.
- Amendment 4 – Return Upper Crest/Chambers Circle to Homestead/Wakefield from Prospect Mill Elementary School.
- Amendment 5 – Move northern boundary of Jarrettsville ES to area south of Parcels on Troyer Road between Harford Creamery and Norrisville Road, from Norrisville Elementary School.
- Amendment 6 – Extend north western boundary of Youth’s Benefit ES from Baldwin Mill Road (165) to Rutledge Road, between Mountain Road (152) and Charles Street, including Nelson Lane.
- Amendment 7 –
- Move area northeast of Route 40 to Joppatowne ES from Abingdon ES.
- Move area between Route 40 and I-95, east of Mountain Road from Riverside ES to Joppatowne ES.
- Return the area south of Trimble Road, from the eastern edge of the Magnolia ES/Deerfield ES boundary to Magnolia ES.
- Return the L-shaped “Seven Oaks” area north of Hanson Road, and, move Stoneleigh Square area north of Hanson Road to Edgewood ES from Riverside ES.
- Return the area south of Trimble Road, Foster Branch Road, and Joppa Farm road, east of Joppatowne ES boundary back to Riverside ES.
- Return Long Bar Harbor area to William Paca/Old Post Road ES from Deerfield ES.
- Move West Shore area to Deerfield ES from Edgewood ES.
- Amendment 8 – Return area south of Conowingo Road and east of Hughes at the northwest section of the current Darlington ES to Dublin ES.
- Amendment 9 –
- Move area north of Harkins Road (136) from Rocks Road (24) to St. Paul Church Road, including Picker Dr., from North Bend ES to Norrisville ES.
- Move area northwest of Eden Mill Road and North Telegraph Road to Norrisville ES.
- Amendment 10 –
- Move parcels on both sides of Stepney Road from I-95 to Rte. 40 to George D. Lisby at Hillsdale Elementary from Church Creek ES.
- Return students on west side of Spesutia Road from Rte. 40 to Perryman Road to Church Creek ES.
- Grandfathering – Fifth grade students (approximately 290 students) only at the option of the parents with transportation provided by Harford County Public Schools