ELLICOTT CITY, Md. — Thursday night hundreds protested outside the Howard County Board of Education building in Ellicott City.
On Wednesday, the school board held a meeting about redistricting schools. Many parents and students disagree with the plan. If passed, it could move more than 7,000 students to different schools next year.
The school district wants to address overcrowding and create more diverse student bodies.
The meeting is for families with students at Glenelg, Marriotts Ridge, Reservoir and River Hill high schools.
Some, like Howard County Indivisible, are in favor of it.
“Howard County really needs to do some redistricting to balance that,” said Laurie Chin with Howard County Indivisible. “Some of the things that have been proposed are looking at equity and fairness across schools. Looking at balancing some of the socioeconomic factors while we do the redistricting, which we would be doing anyway.”
Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano said by reassigning the students, they could alleviate overcrowding and address inequities in the distribution of students affected by poverty.
Hermant Sharma is a parent and pediatrician who has children that will be moved.
“We’re actually the most integrated school district in the region,” Sharma said. “Even in the most integrated we do have achievement gaps by race and by class. We need to figure out what’s at the root of that, because this plan is superficial. It’s not addressing the root cause of the problem.”
Signs in hand they lined the road leading into the Howard County School Board Headquarters.
“I may be bused across the whole county just to go to a different school,” said 6th grade student Sophia Fernandes. “I’m going to be passing a school that I would be districted to before, and it makes no sense that I’m going to. I’m not going to have any time to sleep. Many students aren’t going to be with any of their friends.”
The superintendent's recommendations come after a review found nearly half of the county's schools are either underutilized or over capacity and there's an uneven distribution of students in the free and reduced-price meal program also known as FARMS.
“Poverty needs to be addressed but it needs to be addressed directly,” said Audrey Fernandes, who is a parent. “They need to provide more funding. Reinstate para educators into our program. Reinstate technology classes that they’ve been cutting.”
Another meeting is scheduled for Monday, October 7 and there’s plans for seven public work sessions in October and November.
The school board hopes to make a final decision about the plan on November 21.