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School traffic a concern for Westfields residents

April 06, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

Opening an elementary school near their homes to every child in the county likely will not affect the quality of education there, according to some residents in the Westfields housing development off Sharpsburg Pike.

They do believe that there will be additional traffic. And that is unacceptable, said Arthur Robinson.

Robinson and his wife, Jessica Robinson, live along Rockland Drive with their 15-month-old child. They said they were told that the road, which leads to a new Rockland Woods Elementary School opening in August, would not be the main road to the school.

However, until an access road is built, they live along the only road that leads to the school. A decision last week to extend to June 1 the deadline to apply for special permission to attend a county school essentially opens the school to any student in the county.

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Open enrollment was considered for Rockland Woods after redistricting efforts failed to push the population of the new 750-seat school past 500.

When it made the decision, the Washington County Board of Education said parents would have to provide transportation for their children if they want them to attend the new school.

The Robinsons said they expected some additional bus traffic when the school opens. However, open enrollment could mean that many more cars are driving past their home twice each day.

"That's going to be a problem," Arthur Robinson said.

Currently, the road is quiet, except for an occasional construction vehicle, they said.

During a Board of Education meeting last week, Metra Reid, who lives in the Westfields housing development, said she was concerned that opening the new elementary school to all county children would be a disservice to her own children. She said her family was promised the school would offer a high quality of education, and believed that open enrollment would affect that.

She said families in other parts of the county do not value education as much as families in her neighborhood.

Most of the residents in the Westfields community who were interviewed Sunday said they were concerned more about the additional traffic, and did not believe open enrollment would affect the quality of the school.

The Robinsons said if parents care enough about their children to drive them to Rockland Woods, they will care about their children's education.

"I don't think it will be a problem," Jessica Robinson said.

Linda Mitchell, who lives on Morning Dew Court with her family, said she was unsure how she felt about open enrollment. She said additional traffic will be an issue, but she is not sure how many vehicles could be expected each day.

Mitchell said she also was unsure what bringing in children from other parts of the county would do for the school.

"You live in a certain kind of neighborhood and you expect your kids to go to school with (people from that area)," she said. "You do pick where you live and you pick for a reason, if you can. It does go through your mind."

Mitchell said she also was concerned that if open enrollment continued, the school could fill, or eventually be overcrowded.

Michael Brito has lived with his family along Rockland Drive for two years. He said Rockland Woods Elementary should have been filled with students from overcrowded schools like Boonsboro and Greenbrier elementary schools. Failed redistricting efforts did include moving children from those schools.

"It's going to be too many cars, too much traffic," Brito said. "Only because the intersection was not designed for that much traffic."

His two young children who will enroll at Rockland Woods when the school opens will be walking to school and back home each day. Brito said he is worried about their safety with the additional vehicles.

"There could be a lot of cars," said Sonia Bukhari. "It would be so much rush."

She and her family, including her two children, have lived along Rockland Drive for about one year.

Tim Shanklin, who lives on Morning Dew Court, said there will be a "serious problem with traffic." He said if 30 children go to Rockland Woods from outside the school's attendance zone, that will be 30 additional cars twice each day.

He said that speed bumps and a traffic light will be needed to slow traffic through the neighborhood.

"They have to calm traffic or there will be a (tragedy) with a child or a pet," Shanklin said. "Somebody's going to get hurt."

Mike Hedrick lives on Morning Walk Drive, which is toward the front of the development, and said additional traffic likely will not be a problem for him. He said residents along Rockland Drive will be affected most.

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