Bakerfield kids may stay at Hall's Cross Roads HARFORD COUNTY

March 07, 1993|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

After nearly three months of wrangling over a redistricting plan, Harford's school system said it would recommend leaving 110 Bakerfield Elementary pre-kindergartners and kindergartners at Hall's Cross Roads Elementary.

That appeased some Aberdeen parents but infuriated others, who said the school system never told them leaving the students at Hall's Cross Roads was possible until a Wednesday night meeting that brought 120 people to Aberdeen Middle School.

School board members said they would postpone their vote on the plan until April.

"You told us that leaving the children at Hall's Cross Roads was not even a consideration," said Sandy Weeks, a Bakerfield Elementary parent. "Why have we gone through the last few weeks, pitting parent against parent? This has been a tremendous emotional strain."

The hullabaloo started late last year when a redistricting committee, appointed by the school system, was charged with creating an attendance area for Church Creek Elementary in Belcamp.

To do so, the 26-member committee began scrutinizing the attendance areas of six northeastern elementaries: Bakerfield, Hillsdale and Hall's Cross Roads in Aberdeen, Churchville Elementary in Churchville, Riverside Elementary in Joppa and William Paca/Old Post Road in Abingdon. About 3,500 students attend those schools.

The committee, acting on orders from the school system, tried to return the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten children to Bakerfield from Hall's Cross Roads. About seven years ago, these classes were transferred to Hall's Cross Roads as a temporary solution to crowding.

Many Bakerfield parents, including Linda Drysdale, PTA president, said the school could not take back the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes. She said the school needed fewer students -- not more -- so classrooms could be vacated to make space for computer, art and music classes. The school's computers are now in a former a book closet, the school has no art teacher and music lessons are typically given on the school stage, she said.

Angered by the proposal to send the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students back to Bakerfield, Mrs. Drysdale and other parents suggested sending all pre-kindergarten through second-grade students from the two schools to Hall's Cross Roads and sending upper-grade students to Bakerfield. The schools are 1.5 miles apart

The idea, which was not released to the school board until a public hearing on the committee's proposal, brought strong opposition from some parents and teachers at both schools.

"We were never informed that the school board was considering combining the two schools," said Donna Connolly, a fourth-grade teacher at Bakerfield. "I don't want to teach in a mini-middle school. You say you are not going to vote on the redistricting until April. Well, if a teacher wants a transfer, that has to be in by April 1. Will you give us an extension?"

Pamela Price, a committee member, asked the board to consider moving entire communities from Bakerfield to Hall's Cross Roads.

About a dozen teachers from both elementary schools attended the meeting.

"Some teachers are behaving as if the schools were run for their convenience," said Percy Williams, a school board member. "The children are our first priority. Teachers were consulted. They were on the original redistricting committee,"

Corinne Swaim, who has a child at Hall's Cross Road, presented the board with 152 signatures from people who opposed combining the schools.

Ray R. Keech, school superintendent, agreed. He said busing made the two-school proposal too expensive. Many students now walk to school, he said.

The only "logical" plan, Mr. Keech said, was to leave the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten children at Hall's Cross Roads. Most of the rest of the redistricting committee's proposal would remain intact.

Bakerfield would lose about 31 students to Church Creek. The school would lose at least another 16 students through attrition because more students are graduating from the fifth grade and moving on to the middle school then children entering the first grade, Mr. Keech said.

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