Chatsworth School eyed for multi-age learning

January 12, 1994|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

Baltimore County's Chatsworth School, nearly dismantled by this year's changes in special education, could have a new life next year as a center for an innovative approach to primary education that would relieve overcrowding in nearby elementary schools.

The county school board heard a proposal last night to turn the Reisterstown-area school for learning-disabled youngsters into a "multi-age learning center" for children ages 5 to 8. The board decided to delay its decision until Jan. 25.

Instead of learning in traditional graded classrooms, the Chatsworth students will be in groups of either 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds or 6-, 7- and 8-year-olds, in which grade levels will be blurred to let children learn at their own pace.

Students from Owings Mills, Reisterstown, Timber Grove, Glyndon, Franklin and Cedarmere elementary schools will be able to choose the Chatsworth program in lieu of more traditional programs in their home schools.

Those schools are expected to be over capacity next fall.

The principals of those schools and area middle schools have been working on the proposal, which "represents the best use of that building," said Michael Riley, the assistant superintendent for the northwest area. Chatsworth can accommodate more than 400 students, though no enrollment projections are being made for the proposed classes.

"This is a neat opportunity for parents to have a choice, [for] another style of primary education," added Mr. Riley.

Converting Chatsworth to a multi-age school will cost nearly $271,000, according to the proposal. This includes instructional materials, furniture, computers and other equipment plus nearly $26,000 in teacher training.

The county schools have several pilot programs in multi-age grouping, which lets children learn at their own pace rather than within the confines of a strict curriculum.

This approach reduces the number of children who repeat grades because the students can pick up in September where they leave off in June.

The Chatsworth proposal also would offer parents of 5-year-olds a full-day program, rather than the half-day kindergartens at neighboring schools. It also presents an alternative to the crowded classrooms at nearby schools without redistricting the area.

About 50 emotionally disturbed students are at Chatsworth this year.

The other students who attended the special education center, which served mostly learning-disabled youngsters, were transferred to other schools as the county stepped up its controversial "inclusion" program.

Chatsworth also houses kindergarten students from Glyndon Elementary and students from Deer Park school, which is being renovated and is expected to be ready by September.

The program for the emotionally disturbed youngsters might stay at Chatsworth, or may be moved to Hernwood Elementary, Mr. Riley said.

That decision will be made largely by parents of the Chatsworth youngsters.

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