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Cascade residents plan opposition

May 08, 2001

Cascade residents plan opposition



By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Cascade-area residents plan to voice their displeasure with a proposal to close Cascade Elementary School when the Washington County Board of Education holds a town meeting on June 4.

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About 60 residents attended a Cascade community meeting Monday night at Lakeside Hall at the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base to talk about the proposal.

The Facilities Review Committee, a group initiated by the Washington County Commissioners to study school consolidation, is proposing that Cascade Elementary close and be consolidated with Smithsburg Elementary School.

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The study states the closing of Cascade would save $529,200 a year in staffing costs, $35,000 a year in utilities and $20,000 a year in maintenance.

Overall, the county would save $1.6 million a year by closing five elementary schools, the report states. The School Board is expected to vote Aug. 21 on whether to accept or reject all or portions of the report.

Cascade residents say they believe the report is inaccurate and plan to fight the consolidation proposal.

"It appears that the Board of Education, under immense financial pressure exerted from some county commissioners, has already concluded to close Cascade Elementary as evidenced by their report, in spite of the fact that community and parental participation in the report was denied," said Karl Weissenbach, chairman of the Cascade Committee. "As a consequence, their report is unfortunately incomplete, inaccurate and purposely misleading."

"Their report must therefore be considered false and dishonest because it fails to tell the whole story," he said.

Cascade residents said they believe closing the school would harm chances of growth in the Cascade area, cause adverse effects on the economic redevelopment of the area, decrease the quality of education by sending students to a school with a bigger enrollment, and result in longer transportation times, among other concerns.

"They're starting to put a price tag on our kids' education," said parent Daniel Matthews. "I think it's time we start being critical of our elected officials. We need to call them up and say enough is enough, because this is getting a little ridiculous. You got to make waves. You got to start speaking your mind."

"I agree with you 100 percent," said parent Greg DeLauter. "We got to write letters. We got to shake them up."

DeLauter is also the vice president of the Cascade Committee.

Some residents suggested contacting senators and congress members for support. Others suggested wearing the color red, the school's color, at the June town meeting to show support for the school. Some suggested holding a rally before the meeting.

Michelle Haley said she recently moved to Cascade so she could send her children to a small, community elementary school. Before moving to Washington County, she lived in Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties. She said she thinks larger schools help promote school violence.

"I believe that if you have a classroom with 15 to 20 kids per class, I think they're going to benefit more," Haley said. "I'm looking at the future of my elementary-aged kids. My big thing is violence. That's why I got out of the city."

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