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Washington County board to consider opening new Rockland Woods school to all students

April 01, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- After redistricting failed to push the population of a new 750-seat elementary school past 500, Washington County Public Schools officials will discuss opening enrollment at Rockland Woods Elementary to all students.

"It was brought up, in my mind, because we want to relieve overcrowding in so many schools," Board of Education Member Ruth Anne Callaham said.

The board will discuss open enrollment of Rockland Woods during its public business meeting today.

Board Member Wayne D. Ridenour said he was in favor of the idea, but he said that an established attendance zone is needed for the school. Redistricting proposals that were accepted by the board have left the school with about 490 students.

The school, south of Hagerstown along Md. 65, will open in August.

"We have open space," Ridenour said. "We have overcrowding in other schools. We'd love to see some other students come."

He said that if the housing market had remained strong, as it was when plans for the new school began, a larger group of students could have been pulled from the Westfields housing development where the school was built. Other planned developments in that area never materialized, Ridenour said.

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"I still think we have to look at redistricting," he said. "We're going to have to get some more kids in and have a consistent set of boundaries that get us a pretty good number of kids into that building."

Some board members said they were unsure how long open enrollment could be in place at Rockland Woods, or whether there would be a cap on the number of students admitted.

"I don't see us putting a cap on it right now," Callaham said. "I don't see it being so many (students) that it would impede growth in that area. Probably a nice cushion, so we can accommodate every student who asks and still have room for growth."

Principal Kathy Stiles said she has gotten requests for several weeks from parents who want their children to attend the new school but do not live within the attendance boundaries.

Board Vice President Donna Brightman said those families likely would need to complete a form and understand that transportation will not be provided.

"That's a concern of mine," she said. "All students would not have the same opportunity if their family or their situation would not allow for them to provide their own transportation."

Callaham said that a decision needs to be made quickly and could come at today's meeting.

If you go



What: Washington County Board of Education meeting where open enrollment of Rockland Woods Elementary will be discussed.

When: Today, 1 p.m.

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

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