By Brandi Bottalico, Frederick News Post
Friday, January 27, 2017
Frederick County Public Schools staff members are considering two options for who will attend Butterfly Ridge Elementary when it opens in the fall of 2018.
The options would affect about 15,600 students.
Option 9 would move almost 1,500 elementary, middle and high school students from one attendance area to another. Option 10 would move almost 2,100 elementary, middle and high school students from one attendance area to another. While the latter option affects more students, it would better address overcrowding at Waverley Elementary.
District staff members have hosted several public meetings before making a recommendation to Superintendent Terry Alban at the end of February. Alban will present the recommendation March 22 to the school board, which will vote on a final plan in June.
Facilities Planning Supervisor Elizabeth Pasierb said the district could recommend either option, a combination of both or a new idea.
Almost 20 colorful maps were taped to folded-up cafeteria tables at Orchard Grove Elementary on Thursday night in the fourth meeting on the two options. The maps outlined how the 10 elementary, five middle and four high schools included in the study could be affected in each option.
The staff anticipates Butterfly Ridge Elementary School students would be primarily from the current Hillcrest, Waverley and Orchard Grove elementary schools. But the study area also includes schools in adjoining areas, Pasierb said.
Parent David Simon said Option 10 was better than the other because it was more comprehensive and would address more than just overcrowding at Hillcrest, Waverley and Orchard Grove elementary schools. The purpose of the study was to look at overcrowding at those three schools.
“My driving factors are equitable distribution of students and broad-based redistricting,” he said.
Under Option 10, Simon’s daughter, who is in kindergarten, would stay at Orchard Grove Elementary. In Option 9, she would move to a new school.
While looking at the options, the district has to consider factors outlined in a Frederick County Public Schools policy that include educational welfare of students, frequency of redistricting, walkers, student demographics and feeder patterns.
The number of students who would be within walking distance of their schools is almost even in the options. Option 9 shows that about 3,069 students live within walking distance, defined as a mile and a half. Option 10 shows that about 2,966 students would be within walking distance.
There were more changes to the elementary school level in Option 10. Middle schools also saw more shifting. The idea was to keep as many elementary school students together as possible in the same middle school, Pasierb said. No recommendation can address all of the factors equally.
“We want to try to eliminate as many split feeders as we can,” she said during the presentation.
Hillcrest Elementary School had 1,139 students in its attendance area in 2016-17, but has a capacity recommended by the state of 670 students. In Option 9, about 794 students would live in the area zoned for Hillcrest Elementary School. In Option 10, about 729 students would live in the area that is zoned for the school.
About 726 students lived in the Orchard Grove Elementary School attendance area this school year, but it has a capacity of 639. Option 9 would reduce the number of students living in the Orchard Grove attendance area to 542. Option 10 would reduce the number to 602.
About 731 students lived in Waverley Elementary School’s attendance area. The school has a capacity of 416 students. Option 9 would reduce the number of students living in its attendance area to 600. Option 10 would reduce it to 588.
Simon, a former Frederick News-Post editor, said it would have been better to bring more schools into the study. The construction of a new school is an opportunity to look at how attendance areas are drawn overall and address issues that have been happening for a while, he said.
“If you don’t look more broadly, you just kick the problem down the road,” he said.
The district did take into consideration housing developments that will affect student enrollment later and the planned addition to Waverley Elementary School.
Pasierb said the district also has to consider what is allowed for bus times for students if it were to consider schools farther away.
Having a study on a larger scale would have taken longer, maybe even a year, she said, and the district needed to have Butterfly Ridge open in the fall of 2018.
The district will need one year to plan for the opening after the final option is chosen.
Orchard Grove Elementary School Principal Shirley Olsen said that through the whole process, the district has been thoughtful. Nothing is final, so parents at the school haven’t had many questions about what it will mean, she said.
“I think a lot more questions will come,” she said.
Orchard Grove Elementary School parent Rene Shuler said she prefers Option 9. Her child wouldn’t have to change schools in that case. Because he receives special education services, it would be more difficult to switch to another staff that doesn’t know him, she said.
“We have a different set of circumstances,” she said.
Shuler said she went to a meeting in October before the options were narrowed to what was presented Thursday. She thinks the school system has done is handling the process well.
“They have done a great job of communicating,” she said.