Parents given voice in Harford Glen compromise

November 20, 1994|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Sun Staff Writer

The Harford County school board has voted to leave the controversial Harford Glen residential environmental program intact, but it is giving parents the right to choose an option.

Shirley Doud of Jarrettsville, who objected to the overnight program, said "it's wonderful. Both sides kind of worked together."

The Harford Glen controversy had been brewing for almost two years, since a group of parents opposed their children spending the night during the five-day program for fifth-grade students.

Those parents ultimately designed a non-school-sanctioned, weeklong curriculum of field trips and activities for children whose classmates went to the park on South Wheel Road near Bel Air. The only other option was for the non-participating students to sit in unfamiliar classrooms with other teachers at their schools, the parents said.

Several parents asked the board last month to consider alternatives that ranged from a concurrent day program at Harford Glen to alternate outdoor-education activities. The board agreed to consider the parents' concerns, but it also voted to continue the residential program.

At last week's board meeting, the panel passed the new Harford Glen motion, 4-2. Board President Ronald R. Eaton and member Thomas D. Hess opposed the motion.

There were several other parts to the motion offered by Vice President Anne H. Ober. It supported the addition of four members to the Citizen Advisory Council of Science Education, which would serve as an advisory group to the Board of Education on the outdoor education program; sought parental input; and asked school officials to draft curriculum guidelines for a program for students who don't attend Harford Glen when their classmates do.

"There is no time schedule, but we would like to implement it as soon as possible," schools spokesman Donald R. Morrison said.

"We feel much was accomplished," said Cindy Sharretts of Jarrettsville, who sought an alternative. "I'm thrilled at what appears to be a solution for the children for now."

"The ultimate goal was that these kids need to experience something that week that the kids at Harford Glen experience," Mrs. Doud said.

The county's fifth-grade students attend the Harford Glen residential program on a rotational basis. The center is able to accommodate about 800 of the county's 2,500 fifth-graders during a 12-week period.

The other fifth-graders attend a two-day, non-residential program Harford Glen.

In other action Monday night, the board:

* Voted to appoint a 23-member committee to examine the school transportation policy and report its recommendations to the board.

A group of Emmorton Elementary parents, who live within a mile of the school, sought a waiver last summer to allow their children to ride a school bus. The board denied the request last month, but said it planned to examine the busing rule for all schools this year.

County elementary students who live less than a mile from school are required to walk unless school officials deem the roadways hazardous and grant exemptions. In middle and high schools, the walking distance is 1 1/2 miles. The policy has not been reviewed since 1983.

Superintendent Ray R. Keech offered a cautionary note. "What do we cut out of the budget?" he asked, to offset the costs of busing the extra students.

* Approved the use of $100,000 from an undesignated fund balance of $567,438 in the current budget for additional teachers and/or instructional assistants.

"It will be used to reduce some trouble spots," said Dr. Keech, referring to overcrowded classrooms.

The superintendent also must get County Council approval to use the money. The remainder will be set aside for emergencies, he said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.