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Keedysville residents rail against school redistricting proposal

February 06, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

BOONSBORO -- Many Keedysville residents questioned Tuesday why their children were being sent to what they described as a "Hagerstown school."

Some said the proposal was unrealistic, unfair and ridiculous.

Boonsboro resident Mira Olson even compared the plan to a "shotgun wedding in Las Vegas," saying it is dangerous and unplanned.

About 200 people attended a Washington County Board of Education public hearing Tuesday to get feedback about a proposal that would move about 160 students from Boonsboro Elementary School to a new Rockland Woods Elementary School being built south of Hagerstown.

The proposed redistricting changes would affect students attending Boonsboro Elementary who live to the west and northwest of town, according to documents. That includes the town of Keedysville.

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Stephen Myers, who lives in the Cannon Ridge development, said the subdivision is the farthest one being considered for Rockland Woods Elementary.

"The travel time will increase substantially (by) almost 20 minutes," he said. "For every extra minute they spend on the bus, there is more concern for their safety."

A committee began working on a redistricting plan for many county schools about a year ago, 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 the new Rockland Woods Elementary, and two replacement schools for Maugansville and Pangborn elementary schools.

In November, three proposals to move 23 children from Boonsboro and 123 from Greenbrier were dismissed, and the committee was asked to draft a redistricting plan, but only to relieve overcrowding at Boonsboro.

Lorraine O'Connor of Keedysville said the original proposal was fair.

"This plan had the children living closest to the new school going to the new school," she said. "If that initial area did not include enough students, then the board could expand into the communities of Redmar and Black Rock Estates."

Keedysville Mayor Matthew Hull presented the Board of Education with a petition signed by 511 people opposed to the proposed redistricting change. He said residents were concerned about the distance they will travel to Rockland Woods Elementary, and also about losing the "community feel" shared by residents of Keedysville and Boonsboro.

Keedysville resident Richard Doak said his children have become part of that "close-knit community."

Doak said having his children split between the Boonsboro school complex and Rockland Woods Elementary next year will be a "logistical nightmare."

"(We'll have) kids between four different schools over a 10-mile area," he said.

Doak questioned what moving 160 students from Boonsboro Elementary would accomplish if the plan also is to eliminate eight teaching positions from the school. The student-to-teacher ratio at Boonsboro Elementary now is 24 to one, he said. If those teaching positions are eliminated, he said that the student-to-teacher ratio actually will increase.

He said it makes more sense to bring in portable classrooms, decrease class sizes and move up a planned expansion for Boonsboro Elementary.

Keedysville residents Kim Martin and Katrina Toombs offered three proposals to board members Tuesday -- make Rockland Woods Elementary predominantly prekindergarten, start a kindergarten to eighth grade pilot program and establish an enrichment program.

They suggested waiting until the 2008-09 school year before making any further decisions.

Some at the public hearing Tuesday said the proposed plan seemed rushed, and that further investigation was necessary.

The Board of Education will hold a work session to discuss the proposal Feb. 12 at 10 a.m. at the board's central office at 820 Commonwealth Ave. in Hagerstown.




If you go

What: Washington County Board of Education work session to discuss redistricting proposal to move about 160 students from Boonsboro Elementary School to a new Rockland Woods Elementary School being built south of Hagerstown.

When: Feb. 12, 10 a.m.

Where: Washington County Public Schools central office, 820 Commonwealth Ave., Hagerstown

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