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School-assignment shifts considered

February 24, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A committee looking at ways to balance Washington County's public-school enrollment focused Tuesday on a few communities that could be part of a redistricting plan.

Cascade, Old Forge, Smithsburg, Greenbrier, Hancock and Clear Spring elementary schools were on the agenda at Tuesday's Facilities and Enrollment Advisory Committee meeting.

Data supplied to the committee shows that Cascade and Hancock have room for more students, while Old Forge, Smithsburg, Greenbrier and Clear Spring are beyond their local-rated capacities.

A planned new school in Hagerstown's eastern end could be a key component in how the rest of the county is reshaped.

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Eastern Primary School is expected to open in 2011 near the existing Eastern Elementary School with room for 695 students in prekindergarten through second grade.

Advisory committee members agreed that a plan to move 95 students living north of Smithsburg from Old Forge to Cascade made sense.

Cascade is the elementary school with the most room for new students, excluding Eastern Primary, according to school system figures. As of September 2008, Cascade had 127 students -- 51 percent of its local-rated capacity.

Old Forge had 17 percent more students than its local-rated capacity, district data shows.

Committee members also said they favored a proposal to move 15 students -- also north of Smithsburg, but south of the group of 95 students -- from Smithsburg to Cascade.

Smithsburg had 7 percent more students than its local-rated capacity.

A third proposal would transfer 47 students from Greenbrier, which was 41 percent beyond its local-rated capacity, to Old Forge.

Finally, committee members said they'd like to consider switching either 44 or 63 students from Clear Spring to Hancock.

Clear Spring was 11 percent higher than its capacity and Hancock was 9 percent lower than its capacity.

School system officials urged the committee to consider how changes would increase the length of bus rides. Committee members mentioned transportation time as they rejected a different proposal to send additional students from Smithsburg to Cascade.

A benefit of the Greenbrier proposal, committee members agreed, is that it would eliminate a split in which some students end up at Boonsboro High School and some at Smithsburg High School.

The committee is scheduled to make a report to the school board by December. Its next meeting will be March 10.

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