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Cascade parents plan protest

January 09, 2001

Cascade parents plan protest



By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer


Parents of Cascade Elementary School students, unhappy with a draft report that raises the possibility of closing that school and sending its students to Smithsburg Elementary, have called for an emergency meeting tonight.

The meeting, organized by PTA and Citizen Advisory Council members, is at 6:30 p.m. in the Germantown Bethel Church of God on Raven Rock Road in Cascade.

"We're gearing up to fight this move," said parent Karl Weissenbach. "The people up here are outraged by this draft proposal."

He said if the school closes, it would be a blow to the Cascade area. Without a school and the closing of Fort Ritchie Army base, Weissenbach said it will be hard to attract any new businesses to the town.

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"It will devastate the local economy," he said. "It sends a wrong message to anybody thinking of investing in Cascade."

A committee formed to discuss school consolidation has stated in a draft report that the county could save more than $500,000 a year in staffing costs if the schools combined. It would save an additional $30,000 in utilities.

The report states Smithsburg Elementary would be able to hold Cascade's 167 students by adding enough square footage at Smithsburg for five classrooms. That would cost about $1.1 million, with the local share being $658,000.

The report is not yet official and changes could be made before it is presented to the Washington County Commissioners and Board of Education.

The committee is expected to report its findings, not make recommendations. The commissioners, School Board members and board administrators serve on the committee.

The report states Cascade Elementary, which was built in 1924, is in "disrepair and a maintenance burden" and notes the schools lacks air conditioning.

"What a bogus argument to make," Weissenbach said. "We're on the mountain. We don't need air conditioning. We survived 75 years without air conditioning."

Weissenbach said he doubts the report's potential consolidation savings and thinks busing elementary students about 10 miles down the mountain to Smithsburg is too long a ride for the kids.

Tammy Cregger, chairwoman of the Cascade Citizen Advisory Council, said she didn't know that discussions of a possible school closing were going on.

"We had no idea until we saw it in the paper," Cregger said. "I'm not very happy with it."

She said tonight's meeting will include discussion of the draft report and avenues Cascade parents can take to prevent the future closing of the school. She said most of the Cascade community expressed concerns over the report.

"We're going to get a feel of what the community thinks and see what we can do to stop it."

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