Sudbrook plan puts 4 magnets in 1 school BALTIMORE COUNTY

April 15, 1993|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

A committee studying Sudbrook Middle School says the Pikesville-area facility should reopen as a magnet school concentrating on four areas: visual and performing arts; foreign languages; math, science and computer technology; and physical education and athletics.

At the same time, a Parkville Middle School teacher wants to take advantage of Sudbrook's availability to establish a comprehensive, "all-girls middle school" magnet for female pupils throughout the county.

The Baltimore County school board will hear both proposals at its regular meeting tonight.

"We're going to be recommending that Sudbrook be opened as a magnet in middle school . . . with four different themes [taught] simultaneously," said G. Scott Barhight, the Towson attorney who chaired the Sudbrook committee. "We want to encourage people to explore. We want children to be excited about what their theme is going to be."

Sudbrook, which straddles a politically sensitive boundary between schools that are mostly black and those that are mostly white, can accommodate 1,000 students. It was closed in 1981 because of declining enrollments and has been used for a variety of education and recreation programs since then.

Now Sudbrook is needed to relieve overcrowding in nearby schools, particularly Pikesville Middle School.

Over five months, the Sudbrook committee held public meetings, surveyed students and invited written suggestions about the school's future, which has created significant controversy in the northwestern part of the county.

Superintendent Stuart Berger has seen the committee's proposal and is "pleased with the substance and the process," said Mr. Barhight. "We listened very closely to the community of people who live close to Sudbrook."

Because of what it heard, the committee is recommending that pupils who live within the former Sudbrook boundaries be given first choice of attending the reopened school. After that, students from the northwest and eventually the southwest part of the county would be able to enroll, he said.

Enrollment would be open, but students would be required to maintain certain academic and behavioral standards to stay. The committee is also recommending that the school establish a dress code and extend the regular school day to meet the needs of students and their families.

"The children who attend this school are going to know that there are expectations," said Mr. Barhight.

As with Baltimore County's high school magnet programs, Sudbrook would integrate the regular curriculum with areas of special interest. For example, students who concentrate on physical fitness and athletics might study areas of science related to the human body: nutrition, biology and physiology. Performing arts students might learn math skills while building stage sets.

Students who live within the old Sudbrook boundaries would be able to continue attending Pikesville Middle School, as they do now. "It was real important for us to provide choices, especially to the children who live within the old Sudbrook boundaries," Mr. Barhight said.

Choice is one of the reasons that Parkville eighth-grade teacher Dorothy Dowling is proposing that the county open an all-girl middle school.

"The public schools should offer options. This is what's going to save the public schools," said Ms. Dowling, who created the proposal for a single-sex school and is talking with school system officials and school board members about it.

Recent research shows that girls' self-esteem often erodes as they enter adolescence, that boys get more attention from teachers than girls do and that even girls who do better academically in the early grades may fall behind boys in middle and high school.

"These girls get lost," said Ms. Dowling, who was educated in girls' schools and has taught in the county's middle schools for 23 years. Single-sex schools are "not discriminating, but empowering and liberating," she said. "There's so much of a need."

Ms. Dowling says response to her proposal has been largely favorable and that she hopes the school board will consider it as an option at Sudbrook. She originally proposed the school for the eastern part of the county because "studies have consistently shown heightened rates of teen-age pregnancy, eating disorders and other physical and psychological disorders in girls from this area."

Although Ms. Dowling has garnered considerable support for her proposal, "it's very nebulous," said magnet school coordinator Anita Stockton. "I assume what you have to do is offer a similar opportunity for boys."

Further, Dr. Stockton said, "she must sell her idea. What we need to find is a school that is interested."

Ms. Dowling said she has talked to principals who would consider establishing an "all-girls' wing" in their traditional middle schools, but she prefers a separate school if possible.

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