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Proposal to bus Clear Spring students tabled

March 24, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

Commissioners hear redistricting plan complaints

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A proposal to bus Clear Spring-area students to Hancock already has been tabled, a member of a school redistricting committee said Tuesday, responding to angry feedback from the weekend.

Committee member Bert Iseminger said ideas at this stage of the redistricting process are subject to change and the Hancock shift isn't on the committee's agenda, at least for now.

Two days earlier, about 70 people packed Clear Spring Town Hall to protest the possibility of 130 local students being moved to Hancock schools.

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Residents sounded off about longer commutes, the potential danger of buses on an interstate, a difference in educational offerings and the overall change to the community.

Some urged Dirk DeVault and Jim Micco, their representatives on the Washington County Public Schools Facilities and Enrollment Advisory Committee, to speak forcefully against the shift.

The committee is in the early stages of a countywide review of school capacity, aiming for a better balance between crowded schools and those with extra space.

A key factor is the expected 2011 opening of Eastern Primary School in Hagerstown. The school, near the existing Eastern Elementary School, would have room for 695 students but a target capacity of 625.

Shifts in enrollment might not start until 2010.

Repeating what he said in Clear Spring on Sunday, DeVault told his FEAC colleagues on Tuesday he was worried that numbers, rather than the effects on people, were dominating the redistricting process.

This sparked a debate that took up much of the meeting, forcing the committee to postpone other items until its next meeting on April 7.

The committee was scheduled to talk about three other possible elementary school enrollment shifts: Old Forge to Cascade (95 students), Smithsburg to Cascade (15 students) and Greenbrier to Old Forge (47 students).

Instead, the discussion focused on how and when the committee should seek public input and the specific steps in creating a final report by December.

The superintendent and the school board will review the report.

DeVault said he wanted the public involved early and often.

But others said the committee needs to craft its recommendations first.

"It seems as if we're jumping way ahead of ourselves," said Adam Lewis, a committee co-chairman.

"We're not anywhere close for people to comment," Iseminger said.

Committee members said the public will get ample chance to speak at public meetings, and can comment at other times through phone calls, letters and e-mail.

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