After a 42-person committee spent three months on a school redistricting process, Baltimore County’s school board sent system staff back to the drawing board Tuesday night. It’ll be at least another month before families in the central and northeast parts of the county know where their children will attend middle school in fall 2024.
When it was time to approve the proposed school boundary map — one created with the help of a contractor and community input — school board member Christina Pumphrey pumped the brakes. Pumphrey said she was approached by parents from Halstead Academy, an elementary school in Parkville, who want their children to attend Dumbarton Middle School in Towson instead of Loch Raven Technical Academy, where most Halstead students are currently zoned and where they’d attend if the proposed map were approved.
“My concern is that they [Halstead parents] may not have shared their opinions previously because elementary schools weren’t specifically included in the boundary study committee,” Pumphrey said.
Lack of elementary school parent involvement has been a criticism from parents, and some board members. Only parents and principals of the 11 affected middle schools were allowed to be on the committee, even though most current middle school students will have moved on to high school by the time the new school boundaries take effect in the 2024-25 school year.
Another criticism for the boundary study was its minimal effect on school diversity, which was one of the stated goals for the process. Pumphrey said moving Halstead kids to Dumbarton would improve diversity at the middle school.
Board member Tiara Booker-Dwyer said at Tuesday night’s school board meeting that she’d be in favor of the move Pumphrey pitched if it improved racial diversity.
Most Dumbarton Middle students are white, while 14% are Black. The Black students at Halstead stand at 82%.
District leaders said they would first need to to do an impact analysis. The school system said in an email that the details of that analysis are still being finalized and could not answer how long it would take. The school board doesn’t meet again until July 11.
“Based on what I’ve heard, what we would plan to do is change the boundary to reflect moving all students from Halstead Academy to Dumbarton and then rerun all the numbers,” said Patrick Taylor, director of strategic planning. “The demographic numbers, the enrollment numbers ... the utilization.”
According to a student count report, Dumbarton Middle’s utilization is at 96.23%. The county considers anything above 115% to be overcrowded. Hampton, Lutherville, Riderwood, Rodgers Forge, Stoneleigh and West Towson elementary schools feed into Dumbarton Middle under the option submitted to the board. There are 500 kids at Halstead, and Dumbarton Middle has 1,080 students, according to the state.
Board member Maggie Litz Domanowski said on Facebook she was disappointed the board didn’t approve the map that was initially proposed.
“I am not going to make excuses, but we will make it right,” her post stated. “30,000-plus students and their families thought they were getting their answer last night, including me and my own BCPS students.”
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Christina Pumphrey’s first name.