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Students won't make shift to Fountaindale

January 16, 2002

Students won't make shift to Fountaindale



By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Education Tuesday decided not to send 63 Potomac Heights and Paramount elementary school students to Fountaindale Elementary School, drawing a mixed reaction from parents who would have been affected by the move.

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The seven-member School Board also voted to put off a decision on whether to build a new Maugansville Elementary School, close Conocheague Elementary School or renovate both schools until it discusses its Capital Improvement Plan this summer, Interim Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said.

The School Board decided the fate of Maugansville and Conococheague should be a part of the capital plan, not a part of considerations on whether to redistrict students.

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The board, however, voted to keep on the table 11 proposals that could result in the shift of 541 students to different schools over the next several years, beginning as early as the next school year. The board will take a final vote on those proposals on Jan. 29 at 7 p.m.

The School Board's decisions came during nearly six hours of discussions about which of the redistricting proposals to take to a final vote on Jan. 29.

Many of the proposals were recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Redistricting Committee, which the School Board created to look at ways to decrease enrollment at some schools and increase it at others.

While School Board members had little problem making up their minds on some proposals, they got hung up over whether to send 45 Eastern Elementary School students to Potomac Heights. The School Board voted twice on that proposal, the first time going against the move with a 3-4 vote and the second time voting in favor of it 6-1.

The School Board decided to keep that proposal as an option after turning down alternatives offered by School Board Vice President Bernadette Wagner and board member Roxanne Ober.

Ober, concerned about overcrowding Potomac Heights with 45 Eastern students, proposed sending half of those students to Funkstown Elementary School and the other half to Potomac Heights.

School Board President Edward Forrest said he didn't think the public would have enough time to respond to Ober's proposal, which was voted down 5-2.

Wagner then proposed moving the 45 Eastern students to Paramount, saying that school has enough room to accommodate the students. That proposal was voted down 3-4.

The School Board later voted in favor of the original proposal to send the 45 Eastern students to Potomac Heights. Board members say the move is necessary to alleviate overcrowding at Eastern.

"I'm pleased to be able to help the overcrowding situation at Eastern," said Potomac Heights parent Dan Lodter.

Lodter said he also was glad that the proposal to send 38 Potomac Heights to Fountaindale was removed from consideration.

Wagner made the motion to shift the students, but it died for lack of a second.

"I'm definitely happy with their decision not to move Potomac Heights students out of that school," Lodter said.

Potomac Heights parents had expressed concern that their school would lose parent volunteers if their children were sent to Fountaindale.

Paramount parent Teresa Schoeck said she didn't understand the proposal to move 25 Paramount students to Fountaindale, because the shift would increase class size at Fountaindale.

"I never thought it was a good thing for the students at Fountaindale," Schoeck said. "I never thought it was a good thing for the teachers at Fountaindale."

Fountaindale parent Stacy Abeles, however, said moving the Potomac Heights and Paramount students to Fountaindale would have helped balance the number of students in the Free And Reduced Meals (FARM) program at Fountaindale.

At Fountaindale, 63.1 percent of students receive free and reduced meals, while 15.3 percent are in the program at Paramount and 33.8 percent qualify at Potomac Heights, according to School Board statistics.

"We're looking for them to balance out the extreme imbalanced FARM percentages," Abeles said.

She said it's only fair that the schools, which are in close proximity to one another, have balanced percentages.

Despite the vote to not send the students to Fountaindale, Abeles said she was hopeful the School Board would consider alternatives to balance the school.

"They recognize that change needs to come," she said. "How change is going to come about is up to the board to find solutions that is equitable.

Abeles said Fountaindale parents will stay on top of the issue and continue to make their concerns know to the School Board.

"We will continue to forge ahead and press for these issues to be resolved," she said. "We're not totally discouraged."

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