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Redistricting panel won't recommend school building delay

September 29, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- A committee responsible for making redistricting recommendations for 20 of 26 elementary schools in Washington County will not suggest delaying the construction of the proposed Eastern Primary School.

Redistricting is being considered to alleviate overcrowding. If it is approved, about 1,500 elementary students could be affected, and many of them would be sent from their current schools to Eastern Primary School.

The Facilities Enrollment and Advisory Committee met Tuesday to review redistricting recommendations that were made by the public during three forums held this month. One of the most popular proposals from the public was to delay building Eastern Primary School on the east end of Hagerstown.

Many people who spoke at the forums said South County would be a better spot for a new school.

Committee co-chair Adam Lewis said the group needed to decide at its Tuesday meeting whether to recommend delaying the construction of Eastern Primary School because the Washington County Board of Education is to vote on awarding contracts for the $25 million project next week.

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The committee voted 5-3 against recommending to the board that the project be delayed.

Lewis, Darin Lewis and Dirk DeVault were the committee members who voted to delay construction. John Bellistri, James Micco, Bert Iseminger, Gwynne Cavey and Kira Hamman voted against recommending a delay.

Adam Lewis said he believed the board would approve the contracts for Eastern Primary School regardless of the committee's vote. He said the board acquired the land for the school without consulting the committee.

"The board never asked for the committee's or public's input on the site," Adam Lewis said.

Iseminger said Eastern Primary School needs to go forward because that area of the county will need a school when development resumes.

He said he didn't have enough expertise to doubt the professionals who determined that Eastern Primary School would be among the best solutions for redistricting.

"What justification do I have to say that?" Iseminger asked. "I don't have that ability."

Iseminger said he also supported Eastern Primary School because the funding was in place.

About $14 million of the project would be provided by the state, Deputy Superintendent Boyd Michael said. The remaining $11 million would come from the county.

Rob Rollins, executive director of school operations, told the committee the school system already received approval from the state to proceed with Eastern Primary School.

"Eastern Primary was picked because we thought it would help the most kids," Rollins said. "We felt that would be the best place to put a school to meet the greatest need."

He said additions to overcrowded schools would cost more than building a new one.

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