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Residents urge redistricting panel to study matter further

September 10, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- A committee responsible for recommending redistricting proposals for several Washington County Public Schools was urged Thursday evening by concerned residents to delay making a final decision until the matter can be further studied.

About 70 people attended a public forum hosted by the Facilities Enrollment Advisory Committee at Smithsburg High School.

About a dozen people addressed the committee that is considering redistricting a majority of the elementary schools in Washington County to alleviate high-enrollment problems.

Public input from the forums will be reviewed by the committee in October then passed on to the Washington County Board of Education.

The schools that could be affected are Bester, Boonsboro, Cascade, Conococheague, Eastern, Fountain Rock, Fountaindale, Funkstown Early Learning Center, Greenbrier, Lincolnshire, Maugansville, Old Forge, Pangborn, Paramount, Potomac Heights, Rockland Woods, Salem Avenue, Sharpsburg, Williamsport and Winter Street.

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Before the committee accepted comments and questions from the audience, Executive Director of School Operations Rob Rollins showed maps of proposed redistricting changes.

One of the maps suggested that 90 students be transferred from Old Forge Elementary to Cascade Elementary.

Several people who spoke to the committee said there was a lack of communication between the committee and the public because several questions still need to be answered.

"With the lack of appropriate communication, the lack of trust is exorbitant," said Jennifer Ashbaugh, whose children attend Old Forge Elementary. "If I, as a parent, cannot get answers to satisfy my questions, how can I trust that you have the best interest of my children in mind?"

Ashbaugh said the school system should try to get other proposals from the public before a redistricting plan is put in place.

"In summary, my recommendation is to think outside the box and delay," she said.

Other parents claimed redistricting could cause their children to spend too much time on the bus.

Richard Black said transferring his children from Old Forge to Cascade would increase their bus ride from 30 minutes to an hour.

Some parents criticized an aspect of the redistricting plan that would move children from schools in the southern part of Washington County to the proposed Eastern Primary School, which is slated to open in August 2011 near the intersection of Mount Aetna Road and Yale Drive.

Eastern Primary will accommodate about 695 students and help alleviate overcrowding in other schools, according to documents.

Deputy Superintendent Boyd Michael said last month that Eastern Primary is expected to cost about $25 million.

He said after the forum Thursday that most of the bids for the project should be awarded next month.

Allen Jacobson, whose child attends Greenbrier Elementary, told the committee the money for Eastern Primary should be used to enlarge existing schools or to build schools where they are needed. That way, he said, students wouldn't have to be bused several miles to the east end of Hagerstown.

"I don't understand how building Eastern Primary will help the students in southern Washington County," Jacobson said.

Adam Lewis, co-chair of the Facilities Enrollment Advisory Committee, said before adjourning the forum that the committee's recommendations thus far are just drafts.

"We are trying to take everything into consideration to the best of our abilities," Lewis said.

Two more forums remain



The remaining public forums are:

o Sept. 17, 6:30 p.m., Rockland Woods Elementary School

o Sept. 24, 6:30 p.m., Pangborn Elementary School

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