- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
After more than six months of deliberation, the Calvert County Board of Education decided on a redistricting plan to alleviate the severely overcrowded Beach Elementary School at a special meeting called at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Brooks Administration Building.
Members of the board voted 4-1 in approval of plan D, which will move 166 students total from Beach Elementary to Windy Hill Elementary and Plum Point Elementary. Windy Hill will receive 49 students, while Plum Point will receive the remaining 117. The capacity at Beach Elementary will then be 566 students, 10 percent more than the school’s state-rated capacity.
The Highlands, a group of residences situated on the north side of Rt. 260, outside the corporate limits of Chesapeake Beach on Andrew Drive, will go to Windy Hill Elementary School. Summer City, a group of residences situated between the corporate limits of Chesapeake Beach and the Naval Research Lab, and the Panhandle, a group of residences south of the corporate limits of Chesapeake Beach along the Rt. 261 corridor south to Camp Roosevelt, will go to Plum Point Elementary School.
The change will take effect on the first day of the next school year, Tuesday, Aug. 19.
Despite four redistricting options already on the table that had been the subject of much debate and two public forums, the board asked for additional alternatives to the original four plans at their regularly scheduled meeting Thursday, March 6. The main concerns were to provide relief to Beach Elementary and to affect fewer students and schools that did the previous four plans.
Staff provided the board with four alternative redistricting options, this time only affecting three elementary schools, during the board’s work session March 20. The deadline for public comments about the redistricting was the following Saturday, March 22.
Previously, the proposed plans involved redistricting all elementary schools from Dares Beach Road north, including Beach, Calvert, Huntingtown, Mt. Harmony, Plum Point, Sunderland and Windy Hill elementary schools, with the smallest number of children being affected at 353 and the largest number at 625.
Nancy V. Highsmith, interim superintendent of Calvert County Public Schools; school board president Eugene Karol; and vice president Kelly McConkey all expressed concern for the number of students the former redistricting plans would affect.
“Last year, [the redistricting proposal] was only affecting three schools. Now, it’s affecting seven schools,” McConkey said in January. “You’re affecting too many people.”
McConkey was the only board member not in favor of the chosen plan D, which affects three schools and more students as opposed to his preferred choice, plan B, which would have only affected two schools and 49 fewer students.
“I wanted to affect as few students as possible because I’m concerned that we could be doing this again next year,” McConkey said Wednesday. When asked if he thought another redistricting would happen before a new elementary school could be built, McConkey said, “I do think there’s a very good chance … depending on how much building goes on down in the Beach area.”
Board members Dawn Balinski and Tracy McGuire agreed plan D was the best option because it gave the most relief to Beach Elementary School.
The board had been discussing the issue of providing relief for Beach Elementary School, which surpassed the state-rated capacity of 514 students, since at least 2010. Last June, four of the five board members voted to delay the redistricting for a year to allow for more thoughtful planning and account for future growth, in an effort to ensure redistricting would not have to occur again in the immediate future.
Plan D will still leave Beach over capacity, at 110 percent, but will be an improvement from the school’s current state, with 630 students (kindergarten through fifth grade) as of February, putting the school at 120 percent. In June, Beach Elementary Principal Mike Shisler said the school had almost 700 students enrolled for the 2012-13 school year, adding that the school was “just too crowded.”
While board member Joe Chenelly voted in favor of plan D, he said he did so unwillingly.
“I don’t want the same neighborhood and children moved again,” Chenelly said at Tuesday’s meeting. “Unfortunately … I choose [plan] D.”
On Wednesday, Chenelly said plan D buys the school system enough time before schools become too overcrowded again. Chenelly said he hopes this plan putting Beach, Windy Hill and Plum Point elementary schools at or above capacity will expedite building a new elementary school in the Beach area. Chenelly said a feasibility study for a new school is not planned until 2017.
“It’s very possible we’ll be at the overcrowding issue before that,” Chenelly said Wednesday, adding that the chosen redistricting plan will prevent the same children being moved twice in their elementary school careers.