mail editorial- 1/8/01

January 09, 2002

Wagner merger proposal must fit into overall plan

Should the Washington County School Board merge Paramount and Fountaindale elementary schools, as suggested by board member Bernadette Wagner? It's an idea that shouldn't be rejected out of hand.

Interim Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan has already said she'd like to see some "out of the box" thinking about how schools are organized here. That would include creating magnet schools for special programs like the arts to draw pupils from all over the county.

Wagner's proposal would house kindergarten through second grade in one school and third through the fifth grade in another. It is certainly different, at least for this county, but it would have several advantages.

It would achieve some socio-economic balance between the two schools, by mixing the student bodies of Fountaindale - which draws from some of the lowest-income areas of Hagerstown - with Paramount, where many students come from relatively affluent families.


The move would also draw a new base of parent volunteers to Fountaindale, as well as preventing parents from picking one school over the other through "special permission," a policy that School Board member Roxanne Ober rightly said needs some review.

And while it would ensure that students already at Paramount wouldn't be moved back to Fountaindale, the next generation of students and their parents would know coming in that the family would begin at one school and finish at the other.

What isn't clear is how the conversion would affect the proposal to shift some students from Eastern Elementary to Potomac Heights Elementary while sending some children now at Potomac Heights to Fountaindale.

As we've said previously, it would be a mistake to toss out all of the redistricting committee's work and there's a limited amount of time if its decisions are going to shape next year's budget. The Fountaindale-Paramount merger may be a good idea, but it needs to be part of a larger plan.

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