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Speakers oppose school consolidation

May 01, 2001

Speakers oppose school consolidation



By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Parents, teachers, students and residents of the Maugansville and Conococheague school districts told school and county officials they'd rather keep their small community schools open than save money by having them closed.

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About 70 people attended a town meeting late Monday at Western Heights Middle School on the proposed consolidation of Maugansville and Conococheague elementary schools.

The meeting was the second of four on school consolidation. It was held by the Washington County Board of Education and County Commissioners.

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Last year the County Commissioners initiated a study to determine whether school consolidation would save money. The study found that the county could save $1.6 million a year by closing five elementary schools.

It would save more than $300,000 in staffing costs by closing Maugansville and Conococheague elementary schools, the report states.

The study states both schools need repairs that would cost $11.4 million combined. It proposes building a new, $10.2 million school to house the Maugansville and Conococheague students, saving $1.2 million.

The new school would hold 500-600 students and would be a four-round school, which means that each grade would have four classes of students, according to a release from the Board of Education.

The release also states the new building would provide space for speech therapy, reading resources, media instructional areas and physical education. Maugansville and Conococheague schools do not have adequate space for these programs, the release states.

The new school would also allow for full-time staffing of guidance counselors and music, art and physical education teachers, the release states.

Community members, however, believe the proposal would bring adverse effects to the quality of education and to the affected communities.

"You took the instruments away a couple years ago. What are you going to do in the music area?" said parent Robert Mothershead, who received applause from the crowd.

Mothershead said he bought his home in Maugansville because it was two blocks from the school. He said the community is small enough that many of its residents know each other.

"It's kind of a little world all by itself," he said. "Pocketbooks are one thing, but your kids come first."

Mothershead was one of 16 people to speak against school consolidation

"You're going to save probably about $300,000 a year by reducing staff, but you're not going to have the most efficient schools by increasing class size," said Jim Conrad, a member of the Maugansville Ruritan Club and former principal at Clear Spring Middle School.

"The school is very important for the community," said Marty Lumm, a Maugansville resident and member of the Maugansville Ruritan Club. "I'd hate to see you rip the heart out of the community just by closing the school."

He said the Ruritan Club is active in the Maugansville Elementary community and has spent more than $10,000 to purchase new playground equipment and computer equipment for the school. He also said the club holds activities such as drug awareness programs and essay contests for students.

Bill Walker, also a member of the Maugansville Ruritan Club, was concerned about the availability of fire and safety crews if there were an emergency at the new school.

Maugansville Elementary is located near the Maugansville-Goodwill Fire Company, Walker said.

"If we moved to the Huyett area, that's a no-man's-land," he said. "Who gets the call first? That's a real concern."

Nina Widmann, a retired Maugansville teacher, challenged the enrollment statistics of the proposed school and questioned whether the numbers take into account future growth.

"I'm afraid by the time the new school gets built, it would already be too small," she said.

She also questioned how the Board of Education would combine Maugansville, a three-round school, with Conococheague, a two-round school, into a four-round school. She opposes closing and consolidation.

"Even when I taught first grade math, two plus three did not equal four."

The next town meeting will be held at E. Russell Hicks Middle School at 7 p.m on May 14 to discuss the consolidation of Funkstown, Emma K. Doub and Fountain Rock elementary schools.

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