Number of changes are planned for troubled school Some changes planned before recent problems.

May 24, 1991|By Mark Bomster | Mark Bomster,Evening Sun Staff

City officials have outlined a number of changes at Hampstead Hill Middle School after angry complaints from neighbors about incidents involving rowdy students.

But some of those changes were already in the works before the near-fatal beating of a man last week by three youths, allegedly including a student at Hampstead Hill. That incident focused intense city attention on conditions at the aging school.

The victim, Expedito "Pedro" Lugo, 24, remained in critical condition today after being beaten with his own baseball bat after leaving Patterson Park last Friday.

Changes at the school include the reassignment of Principal Preston Roney after this school year and the possibility of redistricting the school as part of an overall citywide school-redistricting program, said Douglas J. Neilson, school department spokesman.

Throughout the week, residents of the neighborhood have told of attacks by students, bottle-throwing incidents and other vandalism.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke met with about 200 angry neighborhood residents about those complaints yesterday afternoon at St. Elizabeth's Roman Catholic Church.

Because of community complaints, the school will revamp its dismissal policy to avoid disruption of the neighborhood when school gets out each day.

The new policy calls for sixth-graders and special education students to be dismissed at 2:30 p.m. and to be escorted to waiting buses, said Neilson. Seventh- and eighth-graders will be dismissed at 2:40 p.m., and also will be escorted to waiting buses.

The state Mass Transit Administration has agreed to provide two extra buses as of Tuesday and additional buses if necessary after that.

Teacher volunteers will ride the buses to make sure the students leave the neighborhood, said Neilson. Though MTA cannot keep students from getting off at a bus stop in the neighborhood, "we are going to strongly encourage them not to do it," he said.

An extra school security officer has been assigned to the school. Police will be posted within sight of the school at dismissal time to discourage rowdy behavior.

Neilson said the reassignment of Roney, the principal, already was planned before last week's incident. He refused to give details about why the principal is being removed, calling it a "personnel matter."

But principals generally are reassigned or relocated if they fail a satisfactory job performance review or fail to improve the school in various areas, which could include community relations.

Neilson also said any redistricting of Hampstead Hill, which draws from a wide area beyond its immediate neighborhood, would have to be done within the context of an overall redistricting of the school system.

That one-year process would not result in new districts until the 1992-93 school year, at the earliest, he said.

The school district will look at problems at Hampstead Hill during the redistricting, but Neilson also said "we'll be looking at the problems at every school."

And, he said, a middle school probably will remain in the neighborhood even after redistricting.

Neilson said a city-community planning committee will be formed to look into long-term solutions to problems surrounding the school.

Neilson conceded there have been complaints about physical conditions at the school and about discipline.

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