Graphic by Sierra Rossman

Are you ready? Linganore, Oakdale and Urbana areas redistricting quickly to alleviate overcrowding

April 4, 2019

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Frederick County Public Schools plan to redistrict starting in the 2020-2021 school year, and three high schools will be affected: Urbana, Oakdale and Linganore.  This typically takes about one year to complete and another year to implement. The students affected will be redistricted in phases. At this time, about 20,000 students in all grades will be redistricted. This study is going on because some schools are overcrowded and some are under capacity.

There was a public Linganore-Oakdale-Urbana (LOU) Redistricting Study Meeting on Monday, March 18, and they discussed an important aspect of the redistricting process–grandfathering students who already attend the schools.  The final decision has not been made. The redistricting leadership has put out three different proposals (maps) for each elementary, middle, and high school. So overall there are nine maps on the FCPS website available to look at. There is also a survey that anybody can take, stating your opinion on which map is the best.  The survey closes on April 5, at midnight. 

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Parents rely on reputation to make their choice

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The proposed redistricting lines are in Steven Barnard’s back yard. He has a one in three chance that his children will move from Urbana High School to Linganore.

“Right or not I do believe the Urbana area schools have a better reputation academically than the other two schools; although, I do believe all three are great schools,” said Barnard.

This reputation that Urbana High School and surrounding schools have earned contribute to the unrest among parents who oppose the move. When choosing where to live, schools are the major factor. Every parent wants their children to have the greatest education possible, which is what brings many people to the Frederick County area in the first place.

Urbana High School is ranked number 38 by The Washington Post Challenge Index for the most challenging high schools in the D.C. area. This ranking is largely decided on the amount of Advance Placement tests given by the school. Urbana High has an advantage, because they offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) program; Linganore High (ranked number 125) and Oakdale High (ranked number 146) are not any less challenging.

At these schools, the interest in taking Dual Enrollment classes is rising, therefore decreasing the number of students who are taking Advanced Placement courses, and ultimately, the number of tests. Students are offered a variety of academic challenges at each school. If a parent or child wants challenge- all of these schools offer challenging programs for those who seek rigor.

An extreme reaction of the redistricting could be an influx in homes on the market in some areas if the parents want to keep children in the same schools. They could choose to move for many reasons: the belief of a better education, keeping the children with the peers that they have grown up with, and history of their older children graduating from that school.

Max Solender, the parent of an Urbana student, has a more neutral response on the subject. His concern lies with the social aspect.

I would be concerned, mainly because of the change my child would have to go through, and possibly due to losing friends and being in a new situation. However, if my child was in an overcrowded school with large classes, I would be happy that my child could get more attention from their teachers,” said Solender.

Cindy Knedeisen, a Linganore parent whose children will not be affected by the redistricting, pointed out that every school is different.

You would think that because of the core curriculum all schools would be teaching the same thing, but all the schools can’t be the same. There are going to be differences. There are different teachers and different atmospheres that will affect the learning,” said Knedeisen.

Changing schools is never easy, so when it is brought upon them through no change of their own, many may be confused, but the redistricting will also decrease class sizes and further improve the quality of education, so the social experience may improve.

A study was conducted by The Institute of Education Sciences, a branch of the US Department of Education, and it was found that following class size reduction, student achievement improved. Another study from Tennessee, Wisconsin, and many other states proved that students who are put into smaller class sizes score higher on tests, receive better grades, and have better attendance.

Although there are mixed feelings, the redistricting has to happen- it’s the right educational move. Accepting the change earlier and preparing one’s children will help the redistricting go smoothly and overall be a more positive experience for everyone.

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Staff sensitive to student anxiety but sees smaller classes as more important

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In 2008, LHS was rebuilt, and students and teachers moved into the building that is now Oakdale High School for a two-year stay. In 2010, Linganore moved out of the Oakdale building and the schools’ student population divided. Oakdale opened with only 9th and 10th grade, and students who were in the Linganore district went back to LHS.

This gives some teachers at LHS an insight into the anxiety of  the current redistricting problems, such as splitting up families and switching schools.

Physical education teacher Andrea Poffinberger, who was teaching when Linganore and Oakdale formed two different schools, said the situation “reduced population and staffing,” and “dropped the enrollment” of the school. 

Lower class sizes could be beneficial for students and staff at the schools. Science teacher, Jessica Baker, stated that class size is one of the most important things to keep in mind in regards to the students during the redistricting.

“We had class sizes up to forty [students]. And so, being a science teacher, I can only safely have about thirty students in my classroom at lab stations, but with increased class sizes I have thirty-five kids in my class sometimes.”

So along with simple overcrowding that could happen with large class sizes, it could actually be unsafe in some classrooms if there are too many students. Redistricting would even out class sizes at the schools where population would increase otherwise.

Teachers also ensure that each student gets an equal education, no matter what school they attend.

“Teachers throughout the year actually meet with other teachers, and we do professional learning communities. We share resources throughout the school year. We have no problem sharing resources with other teachers,” said Baker. 

Redistricting is an ongoing event, and is in the second stage so far. New attendance boundaries will be adopted in November.

To read more information about the LOU Redistricting Study as it continues, FCPS has an entire website.  Read more here.

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