High school seniors can remain at their currently assigned campus for the 2024-2025 school year under a redistricting plan approved Wednesday by the Board of Education of Anne Arundel County.
The school board voted 5-3 to approve Option 1, which will allow students entering the 12th grade in the fall of 2024 the option of staying at the school where they are currently assigned.
An alternate plan, Option 2, would have allowed high school seniors and juniors who are in leadership positions in their clubs or extracurricular activities the option of staying where they are currently assigned.
School board President Joanna Bache Tobin, Vice President Robert Silkworth and board members Eric Lin, Michelle Corkadel and Dana Schallheim voted for Option 1.
Schallheim said she had been on the fence about the junior legacy option for quite some time. She took into account junior year being an important one for high school students. “I have to balance out the needs of the school system at large with what our staff can endure, what our transportation system can handle, with equity,” she said.
Silkworth said he had to “make a decision with my head and not my heart.”
”The facts are that we have schools [at] well over 100% capacity and schools that are too far under capacity,” he said. “This not only impacts the education of so many of our students, it impacts the ability of our county officials to provide much needed resources outside of the realm of education. Affordable housing happens to be one of those resources. Therefore, redistricting is a must and involves change. Change is often difficult.”
Tobin said, “We find ourselves facing this complex decision because such decisions have not been taken by any other board. Therefore, it falls to this board to take on the issues that have accumulated over many years and has led to such an imbalance in our facilities.”
Board members Gloria Dent, Melissa Ellis and Corine Frank backed Option 2.
Ellis said she had real concern for juniors. “I know how critical that junior year is,” she said.
Dent said, “I understand the business decision. I make business decisions every single day, but I will not tell you that I will sit here in good conscience and believe that we can’t figure out a way to allow juniors to be grandfathered into this process or not consider the impact that it does have on the juniors.”
Superintendent Mark Bedell said there will be necessary support for the juniors during this transition. What that support looks like will vary by school.
“I think we’ve come as close as we could possibly come to a model we think makes the most sense for the greater good of this school district,” Bedell said.
Thirteen schools in the suburban district are considered overutilized, operating at greater than 100% capacity. Redistricting will take all of them to 100% or less. The adopted plan will redraw attendance zones at 48 schools and establish them for two new schools in the northern part of the county.
“Redistricting is one of the most emotional things that a school system can do,” Bob Mosier, Anne Arundel County schools’ chief communications officer said after the meeting. “Including juniors in the legacy program complicates the redistricting process. It would’ve left North County High School over 100% capacity. The main goal was to bring schools under 100% capacity.”
The redistricting plan is set to go into effect next fall. Redistricting will begin in the southern part of the county in February 2025, with changes taking effect in the 2026-27 school year.
Bedell proposed redistricting this summer, and the school board unanimously moved the process to public hearings.
At public hearings, many parents voiced concern about how their children would adjust socially and academically in a new school environment. Other concerns were related to new traffic patterns, particularly on Mountain Road in Pasadena, if more students come to Chesapeake High School.
All boundaries account for growth based on planned residential developments, according to the school system website.
The plan would result in a change of schools for approximately 6,400 students at some point in the educational process.
This story has been updated with the correct spelling of Michelle Corkadel’s surname.