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University System, Washington County schools working in harmony

Performing arts students will take high school classes at downtown campus

Performing arts students will take high school classes at downtown campus

March 07, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - At 13 years old, he's already dreaming of a singing career.

E. Russell Hicks Middle School eighth-grader Alvin Muthoka said he'd like to pursue gospel music, or maybe hip hop. Alvin is in the school's chorus and said he hopes that enrolling in a new performing arts high school in downtown Hagerstown will help him hit the right notes on his way to a career in music.

The Barbara Ingram School for the Arts on South Potomac Street is scheduled to open in 2009.

If Alvin is accepted into the school, he will take academic courses at the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown.

Alvin and several other Washington County Public Schools students watched Thursday as Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan signed an agreement with the University System to use as many as eight classrooms. The memorandum of understanding lasts five years, and the school system will pay no more than $4,800 annually.

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"When people partner together, they can give twice as much to students," Morgan said.

The Washington County Free Library and The Maryland Theatre also are partnering with the school system for the performing arts high school.

Board Member Wayne D. Ridenour said he was "thrilled" by the partnership and very appreciative of the effort it took to seal the deal.

C. David Warner III, executive director of the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, said the partnership is "exciting" and took about three years to reach an agreement that satisfied everyone involved.

"Just imagine, between 150 and 300 high school students will be here every day," he said.

Warner said the majority of the University System students attend classes at night. High school students will attend classes taught by Washington County Public Schools teachers during the day.

"It's just a great thing for Washington County to have this arts school," he said.

Umar Mahmood, an E. Russell Hicks eighth-grader, is in the school's chorus, too, and said he will enroll in the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts.

"I'll be able to focus all on music," Umar said.

Ashlyn Hinkle, 12, a seventh-grader at E. Russell Hicks, said she recently joined the chorus and will apply for a spot in the new school for the arts.

"I've always loved music, and it's always been one of my passions," she said. "(The Barbara Ingram School for the Arts) would be more about music than it would any other subject."

Ashlyn said she would be enrolling at South Hagerstown High School, but likes the idea that as a student at the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts she would be able to walk to several different buildings in downtown Hagerstown.

"It's kind of like college," she said. "You get to have a taste of college."

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