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Title 1 is in jeopardy for students at Cascade

April 15, 2001

Title 1 is in jeopardy for students at Cascade



By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Cascade Elementary School students would lose their Title I status if they are sent to Smithsburg Elementary School as part of a consolidation plan, Schools Superintendent Herman Bartlett said in a letter to a parent.

Title I is a federally-funded program that provides financial assistance to help low-achieving students in high-poverty schools meet high quality standards of performance.

Cascade is designated a Title I school, meaning all students there receive Title I programs regardless of their income or performance status. Title I schools are designated when a high number of students within the school qualify for the Free and Reduced Meals program.

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The school is slated to receive $113,385 for salaries and fixed charges in Title I funds next year. The money, which is allocated on a yearly basis, is used to pay for two teachers and an instructional assistant, said Carol Mowen, the Washington County Board of Education's public information officer.

The school will also receive $3,000 in Title I funds that could go toward parent programs, equipment and resource materials, Mowen said.

At Cascade, 44 percent of the students qualify for the Free and Reduced Meals program this year, whereas 13 percent of Smithsburg's students qualify, according to Bartlett's statements in an April 2 letter to Karl Weissenbach, a Cascade parent and chairman of the Cascade Committee.

If the two schools were combined, the percentage of Free and Reduced Meals program students would drop to 22 percent under current figures, Bartlett wrote in the letter.

"This would not qualify for Title I," Bartlett wrote.

At least 35 percent of the student population must qualify for the free and reduced meals by Oct. 30 of each year in order for a school to receive Title I funds.

A school may not receive Title I benefits if it is not designated a Title I school, Mowen said.

Weissenbach said the Facilities Review Committee, the group that wrote the school consolidation report, should have looked at the needs of students rather than just cost savings. Weissenbach and the Cascade Committee are preparing a rebuttal to the report.

"One of the reasons we object so vehemently to school consolidation is that the drafters of the FRC report failed to adequately address how Title I programs would impact disadvantaged children in the Cascade area," Weissenbach said. "Under consolidation, our disadvantaged children would be the big losers since Title I benefits, for the most part, would be gone."

The Facilities Review Committee and the School Board have said that saving money was just one of the benefits of school consolidation. They said consolidated schools would offer better educational opportunities for several reasons. There would, for instance, be more full-time teachers in classes such as art and physical education, they said.

Figures suggest the county could save as much as $1.6 million a year by consolidating and closing some elementary schools.

"The drafters of the FRC report were so focused on dubious cost-savings, they failed or ignored special needs of very special children," Weissenbach said.

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