Multi-age grouping set at revamped Chatsworth

January 31, 1994|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Sun Staff Writer

The Chatsworth school has gotten a new lease on life.

The former school for learning-disabled children will open in September as the Chatsworth Multi-Age Learning Center, a school for youngsters ages 5 to 8, who traditionally would be in kindergarten through third grade.

At Chatsworth, the youngsters will be part of an innovative approach to primary education that groups children not by grade, but by age group -- 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds, and 6-, 7- and 8-year-olds.

The Baltimore County school board approved the plan last week, by a vote of 6-3, after long debate. Board members wanted to be sure that the new approach was the best for Chatsworth and that community members had an opportunity to say how they wanted to use the school, which is near Reisterstown.

A committee of principals and assistant principals from the northwest area studied several uses for the 400-pupil school, which would have been nearly vacant in the fall, and decided the multi-age program was "a very viable option," said Carroll Parker, principal at Franklin Middle School.

Parents from nearby Glyndon, Cedarmere, Owings Mills, Reisterstown, Timber Grove and Franklin elementaries will be able to choose Chatsworth. No children will be assigned to the school, and no boundaries will be drawn -- another advantage to HTC the multi-age plan, school officials said.

The committee hopes to have about 300 students in Chatsworth in the fall, relieving crowding at neighboring schools. Chatsworth could open with as few as 70 students, Mr. Parker said.

Michael Riley, assistant superintendent for the northwest area, said he hopes a principal for Chatsworth will be named soon. School officials will hold an open house in February and give presentations at the six elementary schools to attract students to Chatsworth. Mr. Riley said he hopes to register children by the end of March.

Multi-age grouping is a sort of one-room school house of the '90s, with children who would be in several traditional grades learning together with more than one teacher. It blurs lines between grades, allows children to learn at their own pace and reduces the number of children held back because of poor grades.

The county has several pilot multi-age programs this year, the largest at Chadwick Elementary School near Catonsville. That program has 70 students in kindergarten and first and second grades, three teachers and two aides. Chadwick also has traditional primary grades.

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