Morgan favors closing schools

January 03, 2002

Morgan favors closing schools


The interim superintendent of Washington County Public Schools said in a memo that she disagrees with a community-based committee's recommendations to keep Maugansville and Conococheague elementary schools open, saying a new school would provide a better educational environment for students and would make the area more appealing to parents.


"A new building will benefit both communities and make that area of the county more attractive to the potential homebuyers with children, thus enhancing the economic life of the Maugansville/Conococheague areas rather than diminishing them with obsolete school buildings," Elizabeth Morgan wrote in a memo to School Board members Wednesday.

The Herald-Mail obtained the memo Wednesday afternoon.

"I believe that a new school will create a better education for all students affected by the consolidation, even though some members of the community may not see that now," Morgan wrote.

She wrote that based on enrollment growth at Conococheague and the poor condition of the building, the state most likely will not provide money for renovations to that school.


The committee had recommended that Conococheague and Maugansville be renovated.

Board administrators have said renovating both schools would cost the school system $14.2 million, while building one school would cost $11.1 million, a savings of $3.1 million.

The community panel, called the Blue Ribbon Redistricting Committee, decided against recommending that Maugansville and Conococheague be closed, saying it didn't have enough time to research the scenarios, it wasn't given the information it needed to decide whether to close the schools and that shutting them down didn't come under the charges of the committee.

The School Board created the committee to look at cutting enrollment at some schools and increasing it at others.

Morgan said in a phone interview Wednesday that the memo was provided as a supplement to the School Board, but that the board has the final say.

"It is the board's decision," Morgan said. "This is strictly my own review. It's up to the board now."

School Board President Edward Forrest said the decision on the schools probably will be made on Jan. 22, and votes taken on other recommendations made by the committee.

"I'm not sure what the outcome will be, but I think we have enough time to make a decision," Forrest said.

Committee member and Conococheague parent Teresa Crowl said she opposes closing the schools. She said Conococheague is in good shape and that the only renovation needed is the installation of air conditioning.

"Just to try to get a school closed, they're going to say it's in worse condition than it is," Crowl said.

She said she expects enrollment at the school, which is at 257 students, to stay about the same or increase some over the next five years.

Morgan wrote in the memo that the committee's vote on whether to recommend closing or renovating the schools was close, with just a few votes affecting the decision. Fourteen committee members voted for the closings, 18 rejected the plan and two abstained.

"This tells me that a significant percentage of the committee's members (almost 50 percent) had reservations about this decision," she wrote. "I fear there might have been some pressure exerted by committee members who were very vocal in expressing their opinions about keeping Conococheague open."

"I wonder who she's talking about?" said committee member and Conococheague parent Angie Roberts, who has openly opposed closing Conococheague. Roberts said she did not pressure any committee members into voting the same way. "I don't see how I could have done that."

Roberts also said that another committee member often spoke in favor of closing the schools.

"I think everybody had their own mind," she said.

Roberts said she was disappointed to hear that Morgan favors closing Maugansville and Conococheague.

"I didn't realize that she had gone that way," Roberts said. "I thought she was going to support what the committee recommended."

Views listed

Morgan said in the memo she supports many of the committee's 12 recommendations but listed her own views for those with which she disagrees.

She said the Williamsport schools need relief from overcrowding, in particular, Williamsport Elementary. Renovations and an addition to the school is in the works, but she said that project will not be enough to handle an increasing enrollment in the long run. The committee made no recommendations on overcrowding in the Williamsport schools.

Morgan said that Fountain Rock Elementary School has the space to accommodate up to 50 Williamsport students.

She also wrote that she favors the committee's recommendation to send 220 North Hagerstown High School students to South Hagerstown High School, but suggested the school system allow students who are currently in ninth through 11th grades to graduate from North.

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