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Smithsburg woman drops suit to halt Eastern Primary construction

November 24, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- A Smithsburg woman who filed an appeal with the state last month to halt the construction of Eastern Primary School has given up her fight.

Dottie Gruhler said she sent a letter Tuesday to the State Attorney General's Office to withdraw the appeal because she didn't want taxpayers to pay the cost of litigation and other expenses.

Part of the reason Gruhler said she filed the appeal was to save taxpayers the $25 million cost of building the school, which she claimed was a bad decision.

"That weighed very heavily," Gruhler said. "We didn't want to fight something that we might lose in the end and cost the taxpayers money."

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Eastern Primary is being built near the intersection of Yale Drive and Mount Aetna Road on the east end of Hagerstown as part of a redistricting plan to alleviate overcrowding in elementary schools across the county.

If the Washington County Board of Education approves redistricting proposals in January, about 1,400 of the county's 10,000 elementary students would be reassigned to different schools. About 285 of those students would be bused from their current schools to Eastern Primary, which is slated to open in August 2011.

Gruhler and several other county residents maintained the school was being built in the wrong place at the wrong time. They said the southern part of the county, where schools are over capacity, would be a more fitting site. Some parents claimed it didn't make sense to bus students to Eastern Primary simply to fill a new school.

Deputy Superintendent of Schools Boyd Michael said last month officials intend to build a school in South County by 2018. The Eastern Primary site was chosen, he said, because students could be reassigned to the school without causing a negative impact.

Gruhler said she and several other parents now intend to focus their energy on redistricting. They have joined forces, she said, to create a separate redistricting proposal that would affect about half the students as the existing plan.

She said parents intend to present their proposal during a board meeting Dec. 8.

Board President Wayne Ridenour said he would be willing to examine the parents' suggestions.

"We're not going to turn anybody away," Ridenour said. "We'll listen to anything."

He said Gruhler's decision to withdraw the appeal would allow the process to move forward more easily.

"I have no problem with what she did," Ridenour said. "She was just exercising her right as a citizen."

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