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Housing may add to rolls at Salem Avenue Elementary

March 20, 2002|BY TARA REILLY

Salem Avenue Elementary School's enrollment may swell to almost 600 students over the next 10 years, making it one of the largest elementary schools in the county.

Dennis McGee, the Washington County Board of Education's director of facilities management, asked the School Board Tuesday morning to assign the area proposed for a 728-unit residential area to Salem's school district.

The 164 acre-site is behind the Centre at Hagerstown and is being called Hager's Crossing. The undeveloped land is in Conococheague Elementary School's district.

McGee said the shift would help balance the number of students at Salem who are in the Free and Reduced Meals program. He said he doesn't think many of the students from Hager's Crossing would qualify for that program.

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If the development gains city approval, the school system expects about 313 students to live there by the time it is completed in 10 to 15 years, Public Information Officer Carol Mowen said. Those students would attend Salem, Western Heights Middle School and South Hagerstown High School.

Salem, with a capacity of 389 students, will undergo a major renovation beginning in August 2003. The work will increase the school's capacity to 584 students. The school's fifth-graders, who have been sent to Western Heights Middle School because of a lack of space, would return to Salem when renovations are complete.

The renovation project should be finished by the spring of 2005.

In addition to fifth-grade classes returning and the students coming from Hager's Crossing, McGee said Salem's enrollment will increase as the Hagerstown Housing Authority's West End project nears completion.

The Housing Authority's project includes the construction of 368 new homes and the renovation of 32 others on 45 acres between Elgin Park and Vickie Drive. The project should bring an additional 105 students to the West End, with some heading to Salem, McGee said.

That project will begin at the end of September and be completed in May 2005.

McGee said the school should have plenty of room for additional students after it is renovated.

Mowen said the school may reach near capacity, but doesn't expect it to exceed that in the next 10 years.

McGee said an advantage to putting the Hager's Crossing development in the Salem district may be that test scores will go up. He said test scores usually are lower in schools that have a high percentage of students receiving free and reduced meals.

Nearly 70 percent of Salem's students receive free and reduced meals. McGee said that percentage will top 80 percent without the students from Hager's Crossing.

The School Board will vote in April on whether to expand Salem Avenue's school district.

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