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Committee reviews options to handle school overcrowding

January 18, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

Options to relieve school overcrowding might include leasing office space, setting up classes at the University of Maryland or taking over the old Allegheny Energy building.

A committee informally set up to discuss redistricting bandied about a host of other ideas Tuesday. Not all of the growth issues facing Washington County Public Schools can be fixed through redrawing boundary lines, several members said.

"We're ready, willing and able, but we have nowhere to put those students," said Karen Reilly, a mother who in the past has expressed concerns about overcrowding and upkeep in Boonsboro schools.

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Reilly and a handful of other community members discussed school conditions at the first meeting of an offshoot of the Facilities and Enrollment Advisory Committee. Because of the weak turnout, facilities committee chair Leslie LeBlanc said the new group again will meet as part of the original committee, with more time for public input to discuss the options as the school system confronts growing enrollment.

The five community members who met Tuesday belong to the facilities committee or have applied for a vote in the group, which makes formal recommendations to the Board of Education, LeBlanc said.

With so many schools facing overcrowding, Brent Bailey said the system must build new high schools, as well as elementary schools, which already are planned.

Bailey, who lives in the Williamsport area, said the school system should consider building a whole new feeder system of schools, from elementary through high school.

"I think we're headed in that direction," Turnbough said. "I think in a word, that's it."

Reilly said she is concerned children in new developments will have the advantages of attending new schools, while children in established neighborhoods must go to schools that need maintenance and updates.

Turnbough told the group that money for maintenance might have to be diverted to new construction because of the pressures of new growth.

He said the first priority of a group dealing with new growth should be drawing boundaries for the new Westfields Elementary School, which is slated to open in the fall of 2007.

The next meeting of the facilities committee is scheduled for Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. in the Central Office auditorium. Input from all community members is welcome, LeBlanc said.

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