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School might remain open

October 26, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Less than two years after the Washington County Board of Education voted to close Conococheague Elementary School around 2006, the school system's chief operating officer is asking that the school remain open to address increased enrollment.

School board member Jacqueline Fischer said there must be careful study and analysis before the School Board makes a decision on the issue.

But, she said, "my gut answer is maybe we do need to keep it open now."

The school board will discuss the possibility at future meetings, she said.

The school has an enrollment of 271, Conococheague Principal Barbara Stouffer said Monday.

In February 2003, following several months of discussion on the issue, the School Board voted to consolidate Maugansville and Conococheague elementary schools at Maugansville and to close Conococheague after construction of Maugansville is completed.

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Parents of students at Conococheague fought the plan to close the school.

It was the right decision at that time when enrollment was projected to be flat for Conococheague and in the county as a whole, School Board member Bernadette Wagner said Monday.

But the situation has changed, with enrollment increasing this year and projected to do so again next year, Wagner said.

Wagner said school board members will need to reconsider past decisions, including that one.

"Keeping Conococheague open would certainly please those who fought against closing it," Wagner said.

Chief Operating Officer William Blum and Facilities Director Rodney Turnbough gave the board a list of ways it could address the enrollment growth, including building several new schools and making other capital improvements.

One of the options Blum and Turnbough previously endorsed is keeping Conococheague Elementary School open.

Blum and Board President Edward Forrest could not be reached for comment Monday.

Turnbough said it is premature to speculate on whether closure of the school might be delayed a few years or canceled.

The school, built in 1960, is on a well and septic system, limiting the extend to which it could be expanded, Turnbough said.

Exactly what would change if the school is kept open has not been determined, Turnbough said. But he said he is sure the school system would want to ensure that students now attending Conococheague would be able to continue going there if the school is not closed.

The board's facility committee is scheduled to discuss the enrollment increase and its impact on schools at Wednesday at 9 a.m., he said.

According to numbers provided by Blum, the school system's enrollment has increased from 19,884 on Sept. 30, 2003 to 20,310 on Sept. 30 of this year. He is projecting enrollment will increase to 20,857 by Sept. 30, 2005.

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