The Baltimore County school board on Tuesday night finally closed the chapter on a redistricting process that has taken half a year to complete and moves hundreds of students to different middle schools in the central and northeast areas.
The board approved a map selected by a 42-person committee without making any changes. The motion passed 6-2 on Tuesday night following a robust discussion that turned contentious at times, with two members unsuccessfully calling on each other to recuse themselves. Two board members abstained and two were absent.
School board members were scheduled to vote on final approval at last month’s board meeting. But board member Christina Pumphrey requested boundary lines be redrawn again so that elementary school students at Halstead Academy in Parkville could attend Dumbarton Middle School in Towson instead of Loch Raven Technical Academy, where most Halstead students are currently zoned.
Prior to the vote Tuesday, Pumphrey walked back her request for new lines and backed the committee’s map. She said the board had done its due diligence and added that it was her duty to ensure all communities were heard.
The delay last month was a disappointment to some school board members and had prompted Baltimore County Council members David Marks, Wade Kach, Mike Ertel and Todd Crandell to urge the board in a letter to vote on the boundary study last month, and not wait until July.
When Pumphrey made her request, district leaders said they’d have to do an impact analysis to see how the Halstead move would affect the entire boundary study. A benefit for moving the kids, Pumphrey said, was that it increased diversity at Dumbarton High School, a stated goal for the boundary study process.
According to the analysis, that much is true. The percentage of white students would have gone from 57% without the Halstead kids to 45%, and the percentage of Black students would have gone from 22% to 32%. At Loch Raven, white students now make up 19% of the student population. Without the Halstead students, the population would have gone to 24%. The Black student population now stands at 61%, but would have gone down to 54% under the new map.
However, the enrollment jump would have made Dumbarton Middle a little more crowded. The space in the middle school would have gone from being 82% utilized to 102%, while Loch Raven Middle would have gone from 84% to 63%.
Pumphrey said Tuesday night she advocated for the change because she was responding to her constituents. After seeing the analyses, she said the map originally brought forth is the best option. Fellow member Tiara Booker-Dwyer voted against the original map because it does not improve diversity and because she did not think enough parents had a say.
Board member Tiffany Fremprong also voted against the map because not enough people from different communities gave input on the map’s survey. She said at the meeting that she was on the boundary study committee. For that reason, board member Maggie Domanowski said she should recuse herself from voting. Committee members already had a chance to vote when they picked which map to send to the board. Fremprong said she’d agree to the recusal if Domanowski would also recuse herself since she has three children who would be impacted by the redistricting.
Neither recused and both voted. The approval for the original map passed with six votes after members Felicia Stolusky, who had her first meeting since being appointed, and Brenda Savoy, abstained. Board vice chair Robin Harvey was not present and neither was Kayla Drummond, who would not have been allowed to vote since student members cannot vote on boundary studies.