First Meeting Held To Reevaluate Elementary School Attendance Boundaries In Baltimore County


Committee members present alterations for one of the draft map options. (Image Credit: Baltimore County Public Schools/ Youtube)

BALTIMORE COUNTY - Members of the Northwest Area Elementary School Boundary Study Committee convened for the first time on Wednesday to reevaluate attendance zones for seven local elementary schools.

The meeting convened to discuss new attendance areas for Bedford Elementary School, Campfield Early Learning Center, Fort Garrison Elementary School, Milbrook Elementary School, Scotts Branch Elementary School, Summit Park Elementary School, and Wellwood Elementary School.

The committee comprises 29 members, 22 holding voting rights, while the remaining seven are non-voting members. They are tasked with alleviating overcrowding by redistributing students following the completion of four capital projects, adding 1,200 classroom seats between 2024 and 2026. Additionally, the study will consider the impending closure of Campfield Early Learning Center in 2026.

"We always tell the committee to take off your parent hat and put on your committee hat to try to take an objective approach," said Paul Taylor, director of strategic planning for Baltimore County Public Schools. "We always want to look at the study area as a whole and what's best for all students in the area, not just one particular community."

During the meeting, members discussed adjusted state-rated capacities, utilization rates, and long-term implications of enrollment and capacity trends. Several schools included in the study are operating well over state-rated capacity guidelines. Milbrook Elementary is operating at 149% capacity, Scotts Branch at 120%, and Wellwood at 160% - meanwhile, Fort Garrison is under capacity at 88% utilization.

Committee members acknowledged consensus in certain areas, especially regarding the importance of equity and neighborhood continuity. Questions arose about how to define diversity, which demographic factors are considered, and the long-term implications of enrollment and capacity trends.

"I would like to continue to wrestle with that question: what does [diversity] mean because it doesn't mean the same thing for each group and it doesn't mean the same thing for each community," said Jennifer Audlin, Specialist with the BCPS Department of Equity.

Two initial map options were discussed at the meeting: Option one primarily focuses on Scotts Branch and Bedford Elementary, with plans to move a geographic area located east of the 695 highway from Scotts Branch to Bedford. Although this approach would impact fewer students, it raised concerns about "feeder splits," meaning that students from a single elementary school could attend different middle schools.

Option two casts a wider net, aiming to relieve Wellwood, Millbrook, and Bedford. Under this option, Bedford's zone would extend west of the 695 and north into Wellwood Elementary's school zone, impacting a total of 522 students—considerably more than Option One. This alternative would also eliminate some existing "satellite zones" for Wellwood and Millbrook, making the school zones more cohesive. Despite these changes, Wellwood Elementary would still operate at full capacity, indicating that further adjustments may be required in the future.

The committee is scheduled to meet seven more times, including public information sessions. Interested parties can provide public comments using a BCPS online form until December 6, 2023.

A final recommendation on the new attendance areas is expected to be presented to the Board of Education on February 13, 2024. A public hearing will follow on February 21, 2024.

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