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Howard County votes in favor of redistricting

Posted at 5:09 PM, Nov 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-22 19:31:21-05

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. — It's been a controversial topic and tonight the vote to end it.

The Howard County School Board passed all but one motion in their redistricting plan.

The redistricting plan will affect where more than 5,000 Howard County students go to school.

School Board member Christina Desmond-Small echoing the frustration of thousands of parents who complained about the lack of time and consideration for the process.

“The redistricting process is broken, and I believe we failed our students and our parents and our community," said Desmond-Small. "We could’ve done better.”

Superintendent Micheal Martirino's goal with the redistricting was to reduce overcrowding and more evenly distribute lower income students across schools.

The superintendent's recommendations came after a review found nearly half of the county's schools were either underutilized or over capacity and there was an uneven distribution of students in the free and reduced-price meal program.

“I have great faith in every one of our school administrators, student support staff, and educators," said Martirino. "To ensure all children are welcome, embraced and that individual supports are in place in order for them to thrive at their new school.”

Only one of the 55 motions was not approved-- Clarksville Middle School Students will stay put.

The estimated rise in cost for transportation is around $2 million.

Rising 5th, 8th, 11th and 12th graders can opt to stay at their current school.

The proposal drew in a lot of criticism from students and parents like Lakshmi Erigineni who was concerned that it would disrupt students' learning and require longer bus rides.

“Our kids go to Marriotts Ridge and right now they are reassigned to Glen Elg which is 9 miles away," said Erigineni. "In traffic it’s going to take around probably 45 minutes to anywhere over half an hour.”

Howard County has been adding about 1,000 students a year.

The plan that was voted through moved about 2,000 less students than the original plan.

On Friday, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball released a statement on the redistricting vote:

“The redistricting proposal by Superintendent Martirano, and the subsequent debate, leading to the Board of Education’s final approved plan was challenging for our community and caught the attention of national media and academic experts. I share the concerns of many in our community about the Board of Education not reaching a stronger consensus and clarifying data provided by HCPSS.

Throughout this process, I purposely did not get involved, weigh in to the details, nor take a side, to ensure the integrity of the process and keep it as free from political influence as possible. I believe school redistricting, which is exclusively under the purview of the Board of Education, should be separate from the office of the County Executive.

Redistricting within a school system is one of the toughest processes for any local Board of Education to undertake and the process impacts many of our families and communities.

However, this is a necessary process for counties, like Howard County, in order to better manage class sizes and capacity rates, balanced with our long-term plans for building new schools and providing the proper public facilities to serve our population.

Although I wish this process would have been less contentious among our residents, I do appreciate everyone’s passion and engagement on this issue – no matter their opinion on the proposed plan or final product. I want to thank everyone who was engaged.

It is now time for us to begin the healing process and start coming together as a County. Moving forward, it is my hope that we continue to share a common goal – to provide all our students the best public education possible and foster the best teaching environment for our educators.

Let us commit to using our passion for educational excellence to collaborate, partner, and innovate to ensure that every Howard County school represents an exemplary and diverse community of achievers, built on shared values of inclusion, civility, and opportunity for all.”