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Formulating a plan for the comprehensive elementary redistricting process to be implemented at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year is under way.

Both construction of the Red Pump school to be completed in 2011 and redistricting are driven by the overcrowding of many elementary schools in the Greater Bel Air area, including Fallston, Forest Hill and Fountain Green.

The goal of the redistricting plan, which will need to be approved by the school board no later than March 1, 2011, is to have all elementary schools operating in the 85 to 95 percent capacity level.

“Redistricting is not a fun part of my job,” Joe Licata, chief of administration, said at Tuesday’s Save Our Schools meeting at Norrisville Elementary. “But unfortunately it is something that has to occur because of the rapid growth in the county.”

The redistricting plan should bring relief to the most overcrowded schools, including Prospect Mill Elementary, which is operating at 134 percent, Emmorton Elementary, operating at 128 percent, and Forest Lakes, operating at 124 percent.

Ten elementary schools are operating at or above 100 percent of their capacity, and 10 are operating in the 90-percent range. The other 12 have use rates from 57 to 89 percent.

Red Pump Elementary School will bring a new attendance area to the county and will bring countywide enrollment at the elementary level to 90 percent of gross capacity, according to Licata.

The comprehensive elementary redistricting process will complement the comprehensive secondary redistricting that took place in 2006.

The elementary round will not alter the middle or high school feeder system and will not change the secondary attendance area boundaries.

As of Sept. 30, 2009, the start of this school year, 17,161 students were enrolled in the county’s elementary schools, which is 94 percent of their gross capacity. The total is down 893 students from Sept. 30, 2008, when 18,054 were enrolled and the utilization rate was 95 percent.

Redistricting outline

The Superintendent’s Technical Advisory Committee, or STAC, is the group charged with developing and formulating various plans for redistricting.

STAC, which became a formal group in 2002, will develop a comprehensive redistricting recommendation, which will ultimately be approved by the Harford County Board of Education.

“The Board of Education is the only group that legally can alter attendance boundary lines,” Licata said.

STAC members are meeting every week and gathering information about what is going on in the community. Licata said the group will also be responsible for implementing the redistricting process once it is approved.

In addition to STAC, regional focus groups within the county are also involved in the process.

The regional focus groups are comprised of five community representatives and one school administrator from each individual school.

The groups were established more than a year ago, but have not met since last January or February because of the controversy the school system faced over the location of the new elementary school.

“Our plan is that as the committee [STAC] starts to deal with different parts of the county, we will bring the information to the focus groups, which then shares the information with the whole school community,” Licata said.

STAC will meet through June to formulate recommended modifications to affected attendance areas, and those recommendations will be presented to affected regional focus groups in June and August.

The recommendations will then be brought before the school board by the end of 2010, so that the board’s public hearings can be held in January and February 2011.

The final plan must be approved by the school board no later than March 1, 2011, to allow 180 days for the plan to be implemented by the beginning of the 2011-12 school year.

Licata said 180 days is needed to allow for staffing and transportation adjustments, as well as get students registered at the proper schools.

“There is a lot of work to be done between now and next year,” he said.


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