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Parents want kids to stay at Salem Ave.

October 21, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

Parents of Salem Avenue Elementary students lobbied school board members Tuesday to end what they called an unfair practice - sending their fifth-graders to Western Heights Middle School.

Since 1987, the fifth-graders have been shipped out of Salem Avenue a year early to make room at the crowded elementary school in Hagerstown's West End.

What began as a temporary solution shows no sign of ending, parents said.

Parent Teresa Dump, joined by a half dozen other concerned citizens, took a petition with 420 signatures to the Washington County Board of Education meeting Tuesday.

Salem Avenue is on the school board's plan to undergo a $4.6 million renovation in 2002, but the repairs won't make room for fifth-graders, Dump said.

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"Many parents and community members feel discriminated against," she said.

Salem Avenue and Winter Street are the only two elementary schools of the 25 in the county that don't have fifth-grade students. Students from both are sent to Western Heights Middle School.

Parent Donald Nisewarner suggested it is no coincidence that those schools also have some of the highest rates of poor children.

"Our kids cannot be discriminated against. We need to take a stand," Nisewarner said.

Denise Deneen told board members it was telling that her 10-year-old daughter wasn't ready for middle school when she came home to complain there was no playground equipment.

"Let's allow them to stay children as long as possible," said Joy Gilbert, who missed work at Citicorp to speak to the board.

Middle schools bring with them the problems of drugs and violence, Deneen said.

"Developmentally, they are not capable of dealing with this," she said.

The fifth-graders are segregated for their own protection from the rest of the students at Western Heights Middle School yet they are also kept from activities at their elementary schools, parents said.

Parents said they believe Salem Avenue is a good school and they feel their children are being cheated out of another year there.

"They're losing out on the benefits Salem Avenue has to offer," said parent Donna Dayhoff, who cautioned the school board against letting financial concerns outweigh students' feelings.

"Our fifth-graders are being treated like an enrollment statistic," she said.

School board members did not take a public stand on the issue Tuesday.

They encouraged parents to get involved with a citizen committee that makes recommendations to the board about school building projects and enrollment.

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