Crofton-area school redistricting advances without provision for new school

Anne Arundel County school officials moved forward this week with plans to redistrict schools in the Crofton area without provisions for a possible $38 million elementary school in Odenton — which developers had pledged to build if an age-restriction covenant were lifted to allow a new development.

On Wednesday, the school board voted to take to a public hearing a plan crafted by a redistricting committee and proposed by Superintendent Kevin Maxwell that would address overcrowding at Nantucket Elementary School in Crofton.

The public hearing on the plan will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 12, in the auditorium at Arundel High School.

In October, the redistricting committee had discussed the 700-seat elementary school proposed by Annapolis-based Koch Homes and Bethesda-based Classic Communities Cos. The school was offered as part of a 2,000-home project called the Preserve at Two Rivers, which the developers want to build near Route 3 in Odenton. School officials signed on for the new facility, even tentatively naming it Evergreen School.

But the project hit a snag when residents in the neighboring Forks of the Patuxent community balked at a request to lift the age-restriction covenant. The developers had initially agreed to build housing only for those 55 and over, but when the housing market slumped, they sought to have that provision lifted.

Since the Forks of the Patuxent community opted not to lift the covenant, school officials said they have not had discussions with either side.

The board's decision Wednesday to bring a redistricting plan to public hearing without Evergreen Elementary all but assures that the proposed school will not factor into the movement of students.

"It would take separate redistricting now to implement any type of boundary change or establishment of an Evergreen Elementary School," said Chuck Yocum, the school system's specialist in student demographic planning. "Until such time that we get notification from the developer that that project is going to proceed, we're at a standstill with regards to Evergreen."

Yocum said that when the proposed school was included in earlier discussions, it was slated to take students from the west side of Route 3 who currently attend Crofton Elementary.

He said those students now will not be moved from Crofton Elementary. That school, though now overcrowded, will be under capacity with the completion of an addition and a renovation project. Under the new proposal, the school is slated to take students from Nantucket Elementary.

Officials for the developer and the community's improvement association have declined to comment.

"The way things are going, everything had to go in a parallel track," Yocum said. "The developer was working with the Forks of the Patuxent people. If we had waited for them to complete their work, we would have been outside of the window by which our policy requires us to complete the redistricting."

Redistricting, which will take place over the next two school years, would involve some students from Nantucket, Crofton and Crofton Meadows elementary schools as well as Arundel and Crofton middle schools. Maxwell's recommendation can be found on the school system website at http://www.aacps.org/redistricting/crofton.pdf.

Before the March 12 hearing, the board will also host a briefing on the plan at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5, at Nantucket Elementary, 2350 Nantucket Drive, Crofton. The briefing is open to the public and intended to allow residents to get answers to questions, but no testimony will be taken.

Then, after the formal hearing, board members said they will reach a final decision on the redistricting plan no later than April 30.

In other school system news, 45 teachers have attained certification by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. The number ranks Anne Arundel County seventh in the nation among school systems for the number of teachers who received national certification this year.

More than 350 teachers have earned national certification while working in the county, school officials said.

"I continue to be incredibly impressed by these teachers who go above and beyond to better themselves and their instructional practices," said Maxwell in a statement. "Their dedication and passion to be the best helps every child in their classroom and beyond, because it also benefits other teachers in our schools."

jburris@baltsun.com

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