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Board redraws school borders

January 30, 2002

Board redraws school borders



By TARA REILLY
tarar@herald-mail.com


Nearly 200 Washington County students will attend new schools next year as a result of the School Board's vote Tuesday night to redraw the boundaries of several elementary, middle and high schools.

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Some parents, opposed to the moves, left the meeting upset with the School Board's decisions.

The moves will affect 187 students in the 2002-2003 school year, but the school system expects more than 500 to be affected by the process over the next several years.

The School Board has said redistricting was necessary to decrease overcrowding at some schools and increase attendance at others.

In addition, the School Board voted to give current fourth-, seventh-, ninth-, 10th and 11th graders the opportunity to stay in their home schools under special permission.

"I don't think they took into consideration anything that anybody told them," Boonsboro parent William Kimbrough said from his home after the meeting. "They sure didn't take the kids into consideration."

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Kimbrough's family will be affected by a board-approved move that will shift five incoming ninth-graders from Boonsboro to South Hagerstown High School.

He said after the meeting that the School Board's decision will split his children between Boonsboro High School and South High. His youngest child, an eighth-grader at Boonsboro Middle School, will begin his high school career at South High. Without redistricting, that child would have attended Boonsboro High School.

His other two children, who are Boonsboro High School students, are eligible to apply for special permission and intend to stay there to finish high school.

Kimbrough said his wife will have the inconvenience of picking their children up in two different school districts.

"There's no way she can be in two different places at the same time," he said.

Kimbrough said he hasn't told his youngest son that he has to leave his friends and siblings for South High, because he "didn't want to upset him yet."

Vann and Gwen Murray, whose second-grade daughter attends Fountain Rock Elementary School, said they left the meeting uncertain of where their daughter will go to middle school.

The School Board put off for up to two years a decision on moving some current fifth-grade Fountain Rock students to Boonsboro Middle beginning in sixth grade. Those students now attend Springfield Middle.

"I still have concerns that in two years we're going to have to go through this again," Vann Murray said. "At this point, it's only a temporary victory."

The School Board also voted not to send 42 Eastern Elementary School students to Potomac Heights next school year, saying they'd look into the feasibility of that move within two years.

Eastern, however, will still lose 76 students to Funkstown and Pangborn elementary schools.

School Board members said they opposed the Potomac Heights move now because it would put Potomac Heights at 105 percent capacity.

J. Herbert Hardin, the only School Board member in favor of the proposal, said he thought that Potomac Heights could handle the additional 42 students. He said the school would still have an enrollment of under 300 students.

"We're not talking about 500 or 600 students in a school, we're talking about less than 300," Hardin said.

School Board Vice President Bernadette Wagner said the purpose of redistricting is to decrease overcrowding, not encourage it, which is why she opposed the move for now.

Hardin said he thought the School Board would favor the proposal.

"I don't know why we're changing the canoe in the middle of the stream," Hardin said.

"Because the canoe is sinking," School Board member Mary Wilfong said.

"The canoe isn't sinking. Maybe we're the ones who are sinking," Hardin responded.

The School Board also held off on a vote to move 21 ninth-graders from Springfield Middle to Boonsboro High School. Those students normally attend Williamsport High School. Board members said they'd consider that proposal within the next two years.

School Board member Roxanne Ober said the school system will continually consider other redistricting options over the next several years.

"I know everyone will not be happy ... but we as board members, staff and parents need to look at what is going to provide the best opportunity for youngsters," School Board member Paul Bailey said.

School Board member Doris Nipps said this was the second redistricting process she has gone through as a board member. The last one was in 1996.

"It is difficult every time," she said. "No matter what we do, we can't please everyone."

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