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Parents balk at redistricting plan

April 24, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

BOONSBORO

If affected by a proposed redistricting plan, Dana Stitely's son will go to three different schools by the third grade.

He's at a kindergarten program in Frederick County, Md., and will enroll at Boonsboro Elementary School this year. And when a new elementary school opens in the Westfields development in 2008, he will enroll there, according to a plan presented to about 75 people at a meeting Tuesday at Boonsboro High School.

Parents were largely opposed to sending their children to the new elementary school. They had concerns over busing, quality of teaching and which middle and high schools their children would attend.

Officials expect that 158 of Funkstown's 290 students will be reassigned to the new school. Emma K. Doub (150 of 311 students), Fountain Rock (120 of 368), Boonsboro (23 of 580) and Greenbrier (87 of 340) also would send students to the planned elementary school south of Hagerstown. The school will have a capacity of 745 students.

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Redistricting will be necessary to relieve overcrowding in some schools and to fill the school in the Westfields community and two replacement schools planned for Maugansville and Pangborn elementary schools. All three are scheduled to open in 2008.

Heather Carey of Boonsboro said her family is building a home off of U.S. 40 on Whitehall Road - two miles from Greenbrier Elementary School. But according to the proposed redistricting plan, her son will have to travel farther to the new elementary school.

"I don't like that," Carey said. "He's only 5, and Greenbrier is right there."

Kristin Gaver, who lives just outside Boonsboro, said she has twin girls at Greenbrier Elementary School and is undecided about their possible move to a new school.

"I'm excited about the new school," she said. "But for me, personally, it's the distance."

There are two elementary schools - Greenbrier and Boonsboro - within three minutes of her home. Going to a new elementary school in the Westfields community will mean a 20-minute commute, she said.

Other parents had similar concerns, saying the drive from their home by car or bus will be longer and possibly more dangerous. One mother wanted to know if her child's bus would have to merge onto Interstate 70 in order to get to his school.

Tina Morgan of Boonsboro aid her home is just inside the new school district for the Westfields school. She said her son, a third-grader at Fountain Rock Elementary School, will be in the fifth grade when the new school opens.

Morgan said she is concerned that he will change schools for fifth grade, and again when he moves on to middle school.

"It's silly to move him for just one year," she said.

Assistant Superintendent for School Operations Boyd Michael said students entering the fifth grade when the new school opens will be able to apply to remain at their current schools.

Morgan and other parents said they also were concerned that their children's middle and high schools would be affected by the elementary school redistricting plan.

"I don't want them to go to (South Hagerstown High School)," Morgan said of her two children.

Michael said that students' middle and high school plans will not be affected by their move to the Westfields school.

Several parents of Boonsboro Elementary students said the plan to move just 23 students from the school to the new school seemed unnecessary.

"Does that really affect anything?" Stitely asked. "To me, 23 kids will not have enough effect to upset 23 kids. It is worth it to the kids?"

Parents were assured Tuesday that the redistricting plan has not been finalized. A committee that has been discussing a plan to redistrict must first present a proposal to the Washington County Board of Education, which will vote whether to approve it.

The committee will hold a series of meetings through at least June 2007 before the Board of Education could adopt a redistricting plan. There will be a May 7 meeting at Williamsport High School for those interested in the redistricting for Boonsboro, Emma K. Doub, Funkstown, Fountain Rock and Greenbrier elementary schools.

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