Simplified school closings explored

December 12, 1992|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

Baltimore County school officials will consider creating new special busing zones that would allow them to easily close schools in some areas while leaving others open.

The move comes in the wake of Thursday's confusion over a last-minute decision to close elementary schools because of snow-slicked roads.

Superintendent of Schools Stuart Berger said his initial response to Thursday's snowstorm, which started after buses were on the road, was to close schools in the northwest area of the county. But Dr. Berger, who had come to his job only last summer, learned that there was no mechanism for doing so.

The school district, which covers more than 600 square miles, now has only one special busing zone, comprising six schools around Hereford in the rural north end of the county. Otherwise, because of overlapping bus schedules, the county is unable to isolate a particular area for school closings in bad weather.

Creating a zone in the northwest, which, like Hereford, tends to receive more snow than do other parts of the county, "is an issue that has come up previously," said Transportation Director Rita Fromm. Northwest residents have asked for a special zone before, she said, but it isn't easy to draw boundaries.

The buses that take students to Franklin high and middle schools in Reisterstown, for example, also take children to elementary schools much farther south in the county, she said.

The "northwest area" stretches from the Carroll County line eastward to I-83 and from the Baltimore Beltway north to about Black Rock Road. The Hereford zone is largely self-contained as far as buses are concerned, Mrs. Fromm said. "There's not another place in the county that is self-contained," she said.

Ms. Fromm said that residents of the Jacksonville area and Carroll Manor school district have also asked for a separate zone.

The school system has more than 700 buses.

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