Washington County school board could link magnet programs with redistricting

October 10, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

The Washington County Board of Education discussed Tuesday ending a magnet program at Boonsboro Elementary School as an incentive to parents to move their children to a new school under construction.

"If we could move people through incentive instead of forcing the redistricting boundary ..." Board Member Bernadette M. Wagner said. "It seems to me that one of the things we could do is consider moving the current magnet programs at Boonsboro and Greenbrier to Rockland."

Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said she would like Greenbrier Elementary School's Spanish immersion program, one that involves some classes being taught entirely in Spanish, to remain at the school.

Wagner said that if the program were moved to Rockland Woods Elementary School, those students could move to that school and continue participating in the program.


Some board members said parents would want to enroll their children at Rockland Woods if it had Boonsboro's magnet program. They said those same families would no longer be opposed to a proposal that their children be moved to the new school scheduled to open in 2008.

The board postponed a decision on what new programs, if any, will be moved to Rockland Woods. Members also deferred making a decision Tuesday on three of the more controversial redistricting proposals it is considering. It was the second time in one month the board postponed making a decision on those changes, which would move 23 students from Boonsboro and 123 students from Greenbrier to Rockland Woods.

Board President Roxanne R. Ober said more research was needed before the board could move forward.

The committee's work

A committee began working on redistricting for many county schools earlier this year, and proposals were presented to the board in July.

Officials have said redistricting is necessary to relieve overcrowding at many of the county's elementary schools and to fill a new Rockland Woods Elementary and replacement schools for Maugansville and Pangborn elementary schools. All three are scheduled to open in 2008.

The Board of Education reached consensus earlier this month on all but three of 20 proposed attendance zone changes that affect nearly half of the county's schools. The board will vote Oct. 16 whether to make those changes permanent.

In addition to moving Boonsboro Elementary's world languages magnet program to Rockland Woods, the board also discussed establishing a different magnet program at the new school or creating an academic enrichment program there.

Morgan said that moving the magnet program from Boonsboro might mean that some children would be unable to continue their involvement with the program.

"I just hate seeing something taken apart that has taken a long time to build," she said. "The magnet program at Boonsboro has enjoyed a lot of support."

Board Member William H. Staley suggested creating an enrichment program in the arts at Rockland Woods to entice parents to enroll their children there.

Cindi Hawfield, a parent of two Boonsboro Elementary students, said she does not want to move the school's magnet program, even if her own children are forced to move. She said there are parents who might find an additional program at Rockland Woods equally attractive to one at their current school.

"Just leave us alone," she said. "We're not really hurting Boonsboro that much."

The estimated enrollment at the elementary school last month was 608 students ? about 118 percent of its state-rated capacity, according to information provided to the board Tuesday. Making no changes to Boonsboro's attendance zone would mean an estimated 625 students are enrolled there in 2008.

Approving the redistricting proposal that affects 23 Boonsboro students puts 2008 enrollment at 602.

If no changes are made at Greenbrier Elementary, enrollment there in 2008 will be 352, which is about 140 percent of its state-rated capacity, according to information presented to the board.

Making both of the proposed redistricting changes that affect Greenbrier students would reduce enrollment to 229.

"We have a serious situation with overcrowding at Greenbrier," Board Vice President Wayne D. Ridenour said.

Magnet school information program

Washington County Public Schools will hold a magnet school information program Monday at South Hagerstown High School from 6 to 7 p.m.

The school system has magnet programs at four elementary schools and three middle schools.

The elementary programs are:

  • Boonsboro Elementary School for World Languages and Global Communication

  • Emma K. Doub School for Integrated Arts and Technology

  • Fountaindale School for Arts and Academic Excellence

  • Williamsport Elementary Magnet School for Mathematics, Science and Technology

The middle school programs are:

  • Boonsboro Magnet Middle School for World Languages and Global Communication

  • E. Russell Hicks Magnet Middle School for Integrated Arts and Technology

  • Springfield Magnet Middle School for Math, Science and Technology

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