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Turnout low at hearing about Conococheague's fate

January 15, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Only one Conococheague Elementary School parent spoke at a public hearing Tuesday on the school's likely closing after renovations to neighboring Maugansville Elementary School.

Before an audience of about 20 people spread out through Western Heights Middle School's auditorium, Julia May, 29, a former Conococheague student and now parent, asked the Washington County Board of Education why school renovations and additions are revolving around Maugansville and not Conococheague.

"I can't see having my daughter on a bus for almost an hour," she said.

Her daughter, a Conococheague kindergarten student, would be affected by the school closure if Maugansville renovations are kept on track for completion by August 2006.

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Recent questions on dwindling state funding have caused school officials to consider asking the Washington County Commissioners for about $4 million in extra funds for fiscal years 2005 and 2006 to keep the project on track, Dennis McGee, the school system's director of facilities management, has said.

After the hearing, which lasted less than 15 minutes, Karen Livingston, 43, a Conococheague parent, said, "I'm just really disappointed and shocked that no one else spoke up."

Livingston said she has a lot of questions about the proposed school closure.

Interested residents can submit written questions or comments to the School Board through Tuesday, Jan. 21.

"If I put them in writing, what's to guarantee they'll answer my questions?" Livingston said.

Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said she was not surprised at the low turnout because she had been checking the sign-up sheet periodically through the afternoon Tuesday.

She said it was difficult to say what caused the low turnout. "Maybe people feel there's been an awful lot of water under the bridge already," she said.

Morgan said the School Board has been very open about its decision to consolidate the schools. "The fact remains that we need to be more efficient in the use of our facilities," she said.

Former School Board Member Herbert H. Hardin attended the hearing, but did not speak.

He said the meeting was "shockingly short," and that he came to see if there was any new direction on the closure.

Conococheague Parent Teacher Association President Chrisie Long, 38, arrived at the school at 8 p.m.

Long, who had gotten off work early and rushed to attend the meeting, said she was surprised to see a nearly empty parking lot when she pulled into the school.

"I think they're going to take it as we don't care, which is far from the truth," she said.

The School Board will make its formal decision on the school closure at its Feb. 18 business meeting.

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