Central-Mayo-Davidsonville Redistricting Passes Board on 7-0 Vote
The Anne Arundel County Board of Education passed the Central, Mayo and Davidsonville redistricting plan on a 7 to 0 vote on Wednesday. The change will be implemented in August of 2012.
The plan will move approximately 100 students from Central Elementary to Davidsonville Elementary from the communities of Waterford, Annapolis Landing and Berkshire in Riva. The plan would also move approximately 35 students from Central Elementary to Mayo Elementary from the south side of Central Avenue and along Muddy Creek Road. Rising fifth graders are grandfathered and will continue to have bus service provided.
Letters to parents in the affected areas will be sent.
As the item came up on Wednesday, Board Member Debbie Ritchie of Pasadena asked Chief Operating Officer Alex Szachnowicz how school redistricting was determined. Ritchie said that citizens at the field hearing in March wanted to know why other schools that were more over capacity than Central were not being moved while Central students were.
Szachnowicz said that there are a variety of factors, including an opportunity to move students to a school with empty seats.
“Our county is unique, we have a lot of peninsulas that are one way in, one way out,” he said, adding that they try to avoid extremely long commutes and try to keep students off of major highways like Route 50 and I-97.
“So it is not just a matter of opportunity, but a matter of safety and opportunity,” he said.
Ritchie asked why the students weren’t remapped two years ago when there was a previous round of South County redistricting that moved students from Lothian to Tracys elementary schools.
Szachnowicz said that at the time citizens on the redistricting committee wanted to wait until construction at Central Elementary was complete. The construction included the addition of a kindergarten wing and enclosed walls in the open space classrooms. That construction project is now complete.
Szachnowicz also said that while projections for Central predict continued growth, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) also projected growth for the entire Anne Arundel County School system, boosting the number of students to 81,000 within 10 years.
Other board members had questions and comments. Amalie Brandenburg of Severna Park said that she toured Central Elementary with Szachnowicz.
“After my visit, I felt the love and pride, and how much parents love the school,” she said.
But added that student overcrowding can lead to other consequences for the school system, including formulas and questions for state funds.
“We are stewards of the tax dollars, and we don’t want to have underutilized schools while others are over capacity,” she said.
Andrew Pruski added that redistricting was necessary because it is tied to the capital budget. Pruski noted that in other jurisdictions, namely Howard County, redistricting happens in a much more comprehensive way.
Szachnowicz said that, unlike in Howard County, a variety of factors come into play. First, they don’t have as much aging infrastructure because their capital budget is adequately funded.
Szachnowicz added that there were some who wanted to see Edgewater Elementary, which is also overcrowded, move onto the Construction Improvement Plan.
“But we just saw the budget the county submitted, and it isn’t on there. I don’t know when Edgewater Elementary will get on the construction list,” he said.
Other questions that concerned parents included issues with before and after care. Ritchie asked where that stood.
Szachnowicz said that both Mayo Elementary and Davidsonville Elementary programs are run by the Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks.
“As soon as we contacted them and addressed it, they immediately and without hesitation looked into it,” he said.
He added that both before and after care would be available at both schools and staffing ratios would be increased so that the families being redistricted would not have to worry about finding other before and after school care.
Ritchie also questioned whether start times might be modified to help parents adjust. Szachnowicz said that start times for school are investigated each year at the beginning of school. He said they are changed for a variety of reasons, including traffic patterns, transportation needs and construction projects. He said that they are not changed due to redistricting.
Once the questions were exhausted, Patty Nally in the chair asked for a voice vote. It came down all in favor of the Superintendent’s redistricting proposal, none against, 7-0.
Editors Note: Mitchelle Stephenson, the author of this story, was the redistricting chair in the fall when the superintendent asked each school to nominate two parents to participate in a panel to facilitate redistricting. The six-member panel forwarded the request to the superintendent in October.