Parents to fight merging schools

February 05, 2001

Parents to fight merging schools

By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer

Conococheague Elementary parents and at least one staff member have joined the fight to keep their community school from being closed and consolidated with Maugansville Elementary. The new, consolidated school is part of an $11 million project listed in the Washington County Board of Education's Capital Improvement Plan scheduled to begin in 2003.

Teresa Crowl, president of the school's PTA, said the group has sent out about 260 letters to parents asking for feedback. So far, she said the PTA has had about 200 parents say they're against the school being consolidated. Two favored it.

"It's been definitely an overall response that parents are against it," Crowl said. "They said they wanted smaller classrooms."

She said some parents moved to the Conococheague district so their children would be a part of a small school community. The school has an enrollment of a little more than 260 students, Crowl said.


Angie Roberts, treasurer of the school's PTA, said a bigger school would lessen the quality of education their children receive.

"Parents feel their children are not going to get the attention that they do in a smaller school," Roberts said. "The teachers pretty much know everybody. It's more of a family up there because of it being smaller. I just don't think it would be a wise move."

The Board of Education has proposed closing Conococheague and Maugansville elementary schools and building the new $11 million facility for both districts that would be located near Cearfoss.

Cascade parents, also opposed to their school closing, have started a group called "Save Our Community School," to keep the facility open and free from consolidation.

The Conococheague/Maugansville project is also one of several listed for consolidation in a draft report written by the Facilities Review Committee. The committee is made up of School Board members J. Herbert Hardin and Mary Wilfong; Board of Education administrators Dennis McGee and William McKinley; and County Commissioners John Schnebly and William Wivell.

The committee said the county can save $1.6 million a year by consolidating Maugansville and Conococheague elementary schools; Winter Street and Salem Avenue elementary schools; Cascade and Smithsburg elementary schools; and Funkstown, Emma K. Doub and Fountain Rock elementary schools.

In addition to Maugansville and Conococheague, Winter Street, Cascade and Funkstown elementary schools would close under the plan.

So far, the Conococheague and Maugansville project is the only consolidation plan listed in the Board of Education's 2003-2007 Capital Improvement Plan. The school system would save about $1 million in repairs if it combined the two schools and built a new one for $11 million. Repairs would cost about $12 million, Dennis McGee, the board's director of facilities management has said.

The school system would also save about $300,000 a year in operating expenses, including staffing and utilities. A principal's position and other staff members would be eliminated.

The Facilities Review Committee has said the consolidated schools would hold about 500 students, and that the bigger enrollment would not hurt the quality of education offered.

Pamela Rubisch, a library media specialist at Conococheague Elementary, said that when the enrollment of about 265 students at Conococheague is combined with the 330 students at Maugansville, the new school would have an enrollment of nearly 600 students. If both areas see a boost in population, the school could contain more than 600 students.

"Many of the families in the Conococheague area purchased their homes so that their children could attend a small public school, not a 600-plus monster of a school," Rubisch wrote in a letter. "When is someone going to look at the value of the education that children get and not at the dollar signs?"

"Here at Conococheague we work to develop the whole child, the academics, the character, the love of school," she wrote. "We don't want a giant school where children are packed into classrooms and are just names and faces."

Parents also claim they had no idea the consolidation project was being worked on and are looking for answers.

"We still haven't been told anything yet," Crowl said. "We need to get answers from somebody."

Crowl said parents plan to attend the Washington County Council of PTAs meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the consolidation issue and "show up in full force" at a joint meeting of the County Commissioners and the Board of Education on Feb. 13, she said. That meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. at the board's central office, according to a board meeting agenda. The Facilities Review Committee is expected to present its school consolidation report to both boards at the meeting.

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