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Most students choose current school

March 14, 2002|BY TARA REILLY

Most of the students affected by redistricting who were eligible to remain in their home school districts opted to stay, according to a Washington County Board of Education report.

Of the 227 students eligible to apply for special permission to stay at the school they're already attending, 180 students applied. The remaining 47 students did not apply and will attend a different school in the fall.

Most of the students who applied to remain in the school they're currently attending are from North Hagerstown High School.

According to the documents, 129 students were not eligible to apply. Those students, plus the 47 eligible students who did not apply, bring to 176 the number of students throughout the system who will attend new schools next year through redistricting.

Students currently in fourth, seventh, ninth, 10th and 11th grades were eligible to apply for special permission.

Public Information Officer Carol Mowen said it didn't come as a shock that a large number of students decided to remain in their home schools.

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Bill McKinley, executive director of support services, said the School Board approved the special permission clause because it was the "right thing to do."

Scott Nicewarner, co-chair of the Blue Ribbon Redistricting Committee, said he understood why many parents decided to keep their children in their home schools.

He said parents spend money for their youngsters to become a part of a high school community, buying such things as class rings and athletic jackets, and it would have been unfair to force students to change schools midstream.

"I would've done it, too, if it was my kid," Nicewarner said. "The real tragedy would've been if it had been a requirement to go."

One of the goals of the redistricting process was to ease overcrowding at North Hagerstown High School, which has run at or near capacity for the past few years. North High began this school year with 1,307 students. The school's capacity is 1,350, Principal David Reeder said.

Reeder said an optimal enrollment size for the school would be between 1,050 to 1,150 students. With 164 of the 192 students eligible for special permission deciding to stay rather than be redistricted to South Hagerstown High School, Reeder said he expects North High to open next year with about 1,200 students.

Reeder, however, said he thinks an enrollment of 1,200 will be manageable.

Without redistricting, which also includes sending 55 eighth-grade students from Western Heights Middle School to begin their high school career at South High, Reeder said North High would have opened with more than 1,400 students next year.

"We'll be in pretty good shape," he said.

The Western Heights eighth-graders would have gone to North High.

As the redistricting process phases in over the next several years, school officials have said North High's enrollment would eventually decrease more.

"That's going to make a big difference," McKinley said.

McKinley said the enrollment drop should flatten out in about four years.

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