New 'West City' elementary school would mean changes for students

June 20, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |

HAGERSTOWN — A new “West City” elementary school not only would replace two aging schools in Hagerstown, but could be big enough to ease overcrowding at neighboring elementary schools through redistricting, according to a school system report and officials.

Deputy Schools Superintendent Boyd Michael said Tuesday during a Washington County Board of Education meeting that school system officials would recommend the redistricting process begin around early fall 2014, with the board voting on redistricting recommendations in the spring of 2015.

The report — titled the Superintendent’s Report and Recommendations for the Closing of Conococheague Elementary School and Winter Street Elementary School & the Construction of “West City” Elementary School — cites some possible redistricting changes so that school system officials could provide the board with information related to issues such as bus transportation, Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said.

After the board meeting, Wilcox said it was premature to say which schools would be affected. The Facilities and Enrollment Advisory Committee would have to review the issue, he said.

The recommended timeline would allow redistricting decisions to be completed a year before the changes would take effect, Michael said.

The new West City school is projected to open in August 2016. If the board approves closing Winter Street and Conococheague elementary schools, that would be done after the 2015-16 school year, the report said.

The report — which contains information required by state law and county school board policy when there are plans to close a school — also addresses cost savings, bus travel times and staff reductions that include at least three fewer classroom teachers with the closing of the two schools and the opening of a new West City school.

The report, which was posted online at the school system’s website on Monday, was presented to the board at its Tuesday afternoon business meeting.

The board will have a 6:30 p.m. public hearing July 17 about the proposal to replace the two aging schools with a new school in the Hager’s Crossing housing development behind Walmart in Hagerstown’s West End.

The school board is scheduled to vote on the proposed closings on Aug. 7. Any redistricting would require public hearings, the report said.

Redistricting scenario
The report considers a scenario in which some Winter Street students would live within walking distance of Salem Avenue Elementary, while others would attend the new school or other neighboring schools.

Under that scenario, most Conococheague students would attend the new school, the report said. Some students from neighboring schools could end up at different schools.

Students who live in the Hager’s Crossing housing development and now attend Salem Avenue probably could walk to the new school, under the proposal.

Winter Street traditionally has not been served by buses because its students live within walking distance. Of the 250 students who attended Winter Street in the past school year, 67 lived within a mile of Salem Avenue Elementary and could walk there if that school’s attendance zone were adjusted, the report said.

If some students from the current Winter Street district were sent to Salem Avenue, Clear Spring or a new West City school, their estimated average bus ride would be about 10 to 20 minutes, with the longest rides around 20 to 30 minutes, the report said.

If some students from the current Conococheague district were sent to Salem Avenue, Clear Spring, Maugansville or a West City elementary, the average bus ride would be about 40 minutes, the report said.

The longest bus ride for a small number of students now living in the Conococheague district west of Conococheague Creek would be about an hour, but that is a worst-case scenario, Transportation Supervisor Barbara Scotto said Wednesday.

A chart of 2011 bus times shows the average ride for a Conococheague student was 32 minutes in the morning and 29 minutes in the afternoon. The longest ride was 45 minutes in the morning and 42 minutes in the afternoon. 

Cost savings
The redistricting scenario considered for evaluating possible bus routes and associated costs only mentions one overcrowded school, Clear Spring Elementary, according to the report.

The report notes the neighboring school districts for Lincolnshire and Williamsport elementary schools had 2011-12 enrollments that exceeded those schools’ state-rated capacities, and the neighboring Hickory Elementary school district’s enrollment was more than the local-rated capacity.

The report also said the school system could save at least an estimated $602,000 a year in operational costs by closing the two older schools and building a larger one. Those calculations assume the new school would have a geothermal heating and air-conditioning system.

The personnel savings included in that estimate would be from the reduction of the full-time equivalent of eight positions in replacing two schools with one, the report said.

Those position cuts would be one principal, three teachers for grades one to five, a part-time kindergarten teacher, a lead teacher, a part-time intervention teacher, a custodian and a secretary.

After Tuesday’s board meeting, Wilcox said he expected layoffs would not be required to eliminate those positions.

If you go ...
What: Public hearing on the proposal to close Winter Street and Conococheague elementary schools
When: July 17 at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Washington County Public Schools’ Central Office auditorium, 820 Commonwealth Ave, Hagerstown.


More information about the proposal, including a report, fact sheet, and questions and answers, is available at the school system’s website at

Comments also can be submitted to the school board by calling 301-766-2809; emailing or; delivering them to the Central Office; or mailing them to Washington County Public Schools Public Information Office, 820 Commonwealth Ave., Hagerstown, MD, 21741.

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