School redistricting can be one of a school board’s most contentious processes. The Baltimore County public school system is in the middle of readjusting elementary-school student assignments to middle schools in the central and eastern parts of the county. It’s heated, to say the least.

The decisions made in school boundary changes are critical to the families and students impacted. These determinations can also influence property values and, consequently, the lives of many more people than the families directly redistricted. Parents tell us about fears of their children being uprooted after struggling academically, socially and emotionally through the pandemic.

Many parents have shared the difference in performance metrics and academic supports between the middle school they anticipated their child would attend and the potential new school(s). This last issue is of special concern to parents who have children with disabilities. In addition, a stated priority in any redistricting decision is that students have continuity between elementary, middle and high schools.

As a result, we signed a bipartisan letter addressed to the superintendent and the Baltimore County Board of Education expressing our strong opposition to various proposals that would divide communities and to the process being employed.

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Perry Hall communities would be split in half along Belair Road, sending students to two different middle schools. That is just one example of the impact of these proposed boundary changes that do not honor historical neighborhoods or aim for compactness. This same process is playing out in Middle River as well, where the community is now split between Middle River Middle School and the new Golden Ring Middle School.

A concerning part of this boundary study is that a section of the governing rules detailed in Policy 1280 III B states that any school boundary committee members must include “two parents from each of the affected schools which the school principal recommends.” Unfortunately, the 46 elementary schools potentially affected by the boundary changes did not have representation on the committee. Only current middle school families are included in this workgroup.

The superintendent responded to our concerns by stating that the Northeast and Central Boundary Study had been conducted like any other redistricting proposal and that Rule 1280 could only be amended once the policy is up for review in 2026. We agree with numerous parents and PTAs that we do not find this a satisfactory response.

Redistricting proposals include diversity implications. Most schools in our district are already diverse. Nearly every middle school either in our district or that services our district has a majority of minority students. While these issues may have greater impacts in other parts of the county, we have some of the most diverse and inclusive schools and neighborhoods in the county. That’s why we are focusing on keeping this diversity in place in our schools instead of doing something to change the great success these neighborhoods have had.

We are concerned that this specific boundary study aimed to accomplish more than what could be reasonably managed simultaneously. This study seeks to alleviate overcrowding, fill a new school building, close another school and move all students currently enrolled in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs back to their home schools. That requires multiple shifting parts and would have an enormous impact on many families across Baltimore County. If the boundary study had not been so large, could there have been an equal representation of elementary school parents on the voting committee?

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There have been public input sessions, and discovering that boundary committee members did not have attendance requirements for the public input sessions has been very disconcerting. More importantly, they were not required to be in attendance at voting sessions.

Therefore, the middle school parents who were meant at least to represent the neighborhood communities of elementary school parents were not required to be present for the entirety of the process. As state legislators working day in and day out in voting committees, we know the power of one voice and representation. Elementary parents need to be adequately represented throughout this process.

A public hearing is scheduled for May 17 to receive comments on the proposed boundary changes before the Baltimore County Board of Education. We encourage all concerned parents and Baltimore County residents to attend the meeting. We will continue to keep an eye on the process and seek out a fair system for all impacted communities.

Kathy Szeliga and Ryan Nawrocki represent District 7A in the Maryland House of Delegates.

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