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Growth addressed at forum

November 11, 2005|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

HAGERSTOWN

daniels@herald-mail.com

Redistricting.

"I knew we'd get that dirty word," Wayne Ridenour, a member of the Washington County Board of Education, said quietly to colleagues sitting around his table Thursday evening, even before the moderator, Donna Brightman, finished reading the question about it.

"It's something, we have to look at everything," Ridenour continued, speaking into a wireless microphone handed to him. "Is it something that we find palatable? Politically, no, it's like opening a vein in your wrist."

The Washington County Council of Parent Teacher Associations hosted a forum Thursday at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center Antietam Creek on growth, touching on a variety of topics including redistricting, the county's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, class size and state funding.

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Council PTA President Leslie LeBlanc said her organization holds the forum annually to give local candidates a chance to outline their platforms. This year, with no local elections to focus on, the council instead decided to spotlight growth and its impact on the county and its school system.

About 60 people attended the question-and-answer event featuring Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, Washington County Commissioner James F. Kercheval and Hagerstown City Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire.

LeBlanc said the council recently created a subcommittee to look at redistricting in the county's schools, an option she said she does not considerable desirable but may ultimately be the most viable solution in a school system facing county-wide overpopulation issues.

"We're going to begin to look at those issues, and it's not popular, but it's a matter of priorities and what's best for kids," she said.

Kercheval said the county has sought to do what it can to accommodate growth, both in terms of development issues that come before the board and the funding of capital improvement projects for the school system.

He noted many of the county's ongoing development projects were approved by previous boards at a time when school projections estimated the student population would level out or begin to decline.

"People, sometimes, don't understand what kind of control we have," he said. "It's past the time when you can stop it. It's unfortunate, but it's one of those things that's beyond our control."

Shank said the state has tried to help the county with measures including the county's excise tax and APFO, but ultimately it will be up to the county and city to control the future pace and shape of development within their borders.

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