Children 'sad, mad' over delay in opening Runnymede school

January 31, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

Some of the toughest questions that Carroll County school officials have had to face about the delay in opening Runnymede Elementary School have come from the children.

The students were all set to move from cramped classrooms they share with packed moving boxes into the new Runnymede building on Langdon Road, about halfway between Taneytown and Westminster.

They have not even seen the inside, the soothing aqua and terra cotta color scheme, the roomy lockers, the big media center, the courtyard and the classrooms that each have a door to the outdoors as well as one to the hallway.

But they can't wait to move in. They're not happy that broken pipes and a frozen wastewater treatment plant are delaying that for at least another month.

"I was kind of sad and mad," said Rebecca Walters, a fourth-grader. "They could have watched the weather and saw that it was going to be cold and put something around the pipes."

The situation was a little more complicated than that, but school officials agree that if the building had been in use and the toilets flushed with more regularity, the freeze two weeks ago would have been less likely. On the other hand, school was closed that week anyway for ice and snow. A similar wastewater plant at South Carroll High School also froze, but it has since been repaired.

Superintendent R. Edward Shilling visited Runnymede classrooms last week to answer questions from students about the latest delay.

"Their questions were questions that could have come from the staff, kind of bordering on 'What are you clowns doing over there?' " Mr. Shilling said.

The children also made suggestions on how to cope with crowded conditions at Taneytown Elementary School -- their home until Runnymede is ready. Taneytown is being called the Runnymede annex in the meantime.

Principal Barbara Walker is taking the advice of fifth-grader Tim Myers, who suggested a way to finally have a room -- if not a gym -- for physical education. Tim suggested moving Paula Sandridge's fifth-grade class into the unused part of the gym -- one-half is already occupied by a classroom -- and using the freed-up room for physical education.

Until today, gym classes have been held in the hall or outside when weather allowed. Physical education and Mrs. Sandridge were scheduled to move into their new areas by today.

Larry Henning's fifth-grade classroom already takes up half the gym, with chalkboards and room dividers blocking off the other half. Tim had suggested moving Mrs. Sandridge's class into the other half, because those two classes already plan activities and lessons together.

"I thought it was a really great thing that kids came up with ideas," said Mrs. Walker. "I wish I had asked them before."

In addition to providing a mini-gym, the move will be a natural one for Ms. Sandridge and Mr. Henning and their students, Mrs. Walker said.

"Their rooms are going to be side-by-side in the new building, with flexible walls. They planned activities together for the rest of the year," Mrs. Walker said.

The foyer of the Taneytown building last week was stacked 5 feet high and several feet deep with boxes that had been packed in anticipation of moving into the building the end of this month.

"It is kind of squishy," said fourth-grader Rebecca Walters, 9. "There are a lot of boxes in the classroom."

Students will find more room this week when maintenance staff move some boxes. But Runnymede teachers who spent a lot of time packing will now have to go back to the boxes and take out materials they'll need next month.

Friday had been set aside as a professional day for teachers countywide, and Runnymede teachers were to have spent that day unpacking, repacking and reorganizing -- even though no date has been set to move into the new building.

But with icy roads, school activities were called off. Teachers and officials will have to reschedule.

Mrs. Walker said teachers will have access to the new building, which is complete except for cleaning and arranging furniture.

But some things can't change until the move, such as having a library and computer room. With 582 students in a school built for about 400, Runnymede has had to use all its space for classrooms.

Rebecca's twin brother, Andrew, misses the amenities most elementary schools have. "We don't have an art room and art supplies. We don't have a gym," Andrew said. "We don't have a library."

Fifth-grader Matthew Leyhe misses the library and computer room.

"The Carroll County Bookmobile comes to us so we can get books, but they don't have a good selection," said Matthew, 10.

And the van visits only about once a month, Andrew said.

Parents who have questions about the the move and other issues may attend a meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Northwest Middle School cafeteria. Mrs. Walker will be there with Vernon Smith, director of school support services.

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