Redistricting worries

Some parents say the county's plan will cause long bus rides and uproot children

Some parents say the county's plan will cause long bus rides and uproot children

September 26, 2007|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN - Waiting at bus stops in the dark through mid-April.

Forty-minute bus rides.

Risky crossings over railroad tracks and a one-lane bridge.

These are just some of the things that children in several Boonsboro neighborhoods would face each morning if Washington County Public Schools moves forward with plans to send them to the new Rockland Woods Elementary School next year, parents said at a public hearing Tuesday evening.

About 60 people gathered in the South Hagerstown High School auditorium, and about a dozen parents of children from Greenbrier and Boonsboro elementary schools spoke out against a change they said would lengthen commutes, uproot children and discourage parent involvement.

"It makes us feel very uneasy having to send our children so far away given there are so many schools that are closer," said David Manganaro, who lives in the Black Rock development currently in the Greenbrier district. Manganaro said he used to live in Illinois, where seven children were killed in 1995 when a school bus was hit by a train.


Of the 25 elementary schools in Washington County, 12 are closer to his home than Rockland Woods, Manganaro said.

"In all the public hearings I've attended, they keep talking about the need to fill Rockland Woods. Not once have I heard anyone say, 'What's the right thing for our children?'"

Current proposals call for moving students from five county elementary schools to fill Rockland Woods, including 123 students from Greenbrier and 23 students from Boonsboro.

For Greenbrier, the change would mean losing not only students, but some of the school's most active families, including eight of 10 parent volunteers and the PTA's president, vice president, treasurer, secretary and several board chairs, Greenbrier PTA president Heather Collins said.

"Greenbrier will be left with a gaping hole," she said.

Many of those parents said they would be less likely to volunteer at Rockland Woods because it is farther from their homes.

"I don't want to be traveling 30 minutes in traffic two or three times a week to go volunteer," said Nina Penn, who was concerned about whether the new school would even have a PTA set up by next year.

At Boonsboro Elementary, the impact on the school would be smaller, but the children moved would feel more isolated because only a few students from each grade would be moving, parents said.

Parents complained that siblings would be split up if one child opted to stay at Boonsboro to participate in the magnet program while another was forced to transfer to Rockland Woods. They pointed out that the area being redistricted from Boonsboro Elementary is not likely to grow and questioned whether it was worth it to move only 23 students.

Washington County School Board President Roxanne Ober said the board would consider the parents' concerns and discuss suggestions like making Rockland Woods a magnet school and changing board policy to allow fourth-graders and siblings of remaining students to be "grandfathered in" to stay at their current schools.

"I think redistricting is a very difficult situation," Ober said. "I think it's difficult for any family to move to a new school and I'm certainly sympathetic to that feeling, but at the same time, the board has to look at overcrowding."

A public work session is scheduled for Oct. 2 from 8:30 to 9:45 a.m. at the Board of Education. The board tentatively plans to vote on the redistricting proposal at its Oct. 16 meeting, Ober said.

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