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Cascade parents prepare to resist school consolidation

January 09, 2001

Cascade parents prepare to resist school consolidation



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

Cascade Elementary consolidationCASCADE - Karl Weissenbach said it's time for parents in the Cascade community to prepare for battle if they want to save their elementary school from consolidation.

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"It's going to take a Herculean effort by this community to stave off the closing of our school," Weissenbach told 75 to 100 Cascade residents who met Tuesday evening to discuss a draft report that recommends closing Cascade Elementary School.

The report by a committee of Washington County Board of Education members and administrators and the Washington County Commissioners suggests consolidating several Washington County schools as a means of saving money.

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The report proposes closing Cascade elementary school and busing students to Smithsburg Elementary School.

Parents attending the meeting at the Germantown Bethel Church of God said that if Cascade Elementary School closes, their children will face longer bus rides and will lose one-on-one attention from teachers. They said it also would harm their community.

Because Cascade is unincorporated, the residents have to be their own advocates in this matter, said Weissenbach.

"We have to get organized and show Hagerstown we know what's going on. We don't want to wake up one morning and read our school is closed," he said.

Weissenbach suggested that residents form a committee to do research and represent residents before the Washington County Board of Education and the Washington County Commissioners.

"We can't just run on emotion. We have to have the facts to back it up," he said.

According to the draft report, combining Cascade and Smithsburg elementary schools would save $529,200 a year in staffing costs and $30,000 a year in utilities.

Cascade leads the county in per-student expenses at $6,988.

Under the plan, an addition would be built at Smithsburg Elementary and Cascade Elementary would be closed.

Cascade Elementary, built in 1924, has no air conditioning and is a "maintenance burden," the draft report says.

Tammy Cregger, a parent of two elementary school-age children, said the School Board isn't considering what really matters.

"They need to put our kids' education before their savings," she said.

Her children do well in their classes, which have fewer than 25 children each, she said.

Cregger said she worries about her children's ability to concentrate in larger classes and about whether teachers are as effective when the number of students in their classes increases.

PTA President Shanda Eyler questioned whether Cascade children should have to endure a possible hour-long bus ride to Smithsburg on steep, winding roads that become slick during winter months.

Other parents expressed concern about Smithsburg's increasing population and wondered whether their children would end up in classes held in trailers. Many said they heard the trailers are cold in the winter.

The possibility of Cascade closing is not a problem for parents only, but for the entire community, said Weissenbach.

He said losing the elementary school would make the area less attractive to people considering moving into the area.

"Our strategy at the moment is to send a signal to Hagerstown that we are a group of people on top of the mountain that care about our community and care about this school," Weissenbach said.

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