by Chris Fazzari, staff writer
Earlier this year, the Howard County Board of Education released a redistricting plan countered by the Interim Superintendent’s, or Dr. Martirano’s plan, which was discussed in this article. The board’s plan redistricts high schools and would dramatically affect River Hill’s student population.
This plan, labeled as a “feasibility study,” would move an estimated 227 students from River Hill to Glenelg and an estimated 614 students from Atholton to River Hill. This would raise River Hill’s population to an estimated 1,607 students, which is 106% of the current capacity of 1,488.
This plan has been much more controversial than Dr. Martirano’s plan, as it not only brings more students to River Hill, but it also moves students out of River Hill. One River Hill parent said this is “counterintuitive because neither Glenelg or River Hill are overcrowded.” The final public hearing on redistricting held on November 7th enabled community members to express their concerns on redistricting.
Attending the meeting was an intriguing experience. As soon as I entered, it became apparent that the people present were very passionate individuals despite being in different groups. They all seemed to know each other; I overheard one person mentioning that they remembered another individual was “sitting over there last time.”
The groups varied in size and area. There were three large groups of people from the same areas with the same concerns. Two groups of over 100 people each wore matching t-shirts. They were each groups from one “polygon,” a neighborhood area sanctioned off for redistricting purposes. There was a smaller group of around sixty that all had signs.
Anyone was allowed to speak for a maximum of three minutes. It began with eleven students, seven of whom were in high school, but none from River Hill. One young elementary school student, who is planned to be moved, called the process “not smart or cool.”
The remaining nineteen speakers were all adults. It surprised me that not all of them had students in schools; instead, they were just concerned community members. One speaker said, “I see so many of my neighbors [here] even those without children,” They mostly didn’t want their neighborhoods to be split up.
“Don’t split up my neighborhood,” were the 5 most common words I heard that evening. Sixteen out of thirty speakers addressed that issue. For many, that was their only concern.
That idea was a rallying point for the three large groups of parents that were incredibly passionate about “keeping their neighborhood together.” Removing them from the around 500 people in attendance drastically put how many people care about this issue into perspective.
However, some new and unique downsides were mentioned by high schoolers themselves. A freshman at Marriotts Ridge mentioned that “If we increase the amount of transportation, pollution will increase.”
In addition, a sophomore at Howard discussed how overcrowding meant Homecoming was sold out and not all students who wanted to go could attend.
In all this talk about numbers of polygons, most of the adult speakers seemed to have forgotten that those numbers represent people. So many people were so caught up in their own opinions that they left after they were done, not waiting to hear the other side’s point of view.
I only stayed for thirty speakers, but there were many more in attendance, so much so the chair of the board had to remind everyone that the meeting had to end at midnight.
Throughout all these plans, it is important to remember that as of now, nothing has been decided. The board is set to decide during their November 16th meeting. However, citizens may appeal the decision after it is made.