West Middle students won't have to transfer Board votes against redistricting plan

March 29, 1996|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

Westminster West Middle School students will not have to transfer to Northwest Middle School in Taneytown.

It was the redistricting proposal no one seemed to want, and Carroll's school board voted it down Wednesday, earlier than scheduled, to remove it from consideration.

"We wanted to put the matter to rest so it wouldn't continue on for another month and continue to get the people stirred up," said Joseph D. Mish, board president.

And stirred up they were. A hearing Monday night at West Middle drew about 250 to 300 parents, a few of whom resorted to angry personal attacks and even an invitation to one school official to "take the argument outside."

Mr. Mish and member Ann Ballard said the board rejected the proposal because it took students from one city to another for school and could interfere with student participation in after-school activities and parent participation in the school.

The vote was to have been taken after April 10, when the school system's staff was to make its recommendation.

But board members decided they didn't need to wait, voting unanimously at their regular monthly meeting to kill the proposal. Members say the redistricting proposal came up earlier in their closed session on collective bargaining and they came to a consensus that they didn't like the proposal.

In contrast to Monday's crowd, only about three parents concerned about the issue attended Wednesday's meeting, never expecting a vote. But the parents who missed it aren't complaining.

"It was a pleasant surprise," said Maura Stevenson, PTO president of Westminster Elementary School. The students who would have been affected by the transfer go to that school.

Ms. Stevenson said she and some parents were concerned that the people who made personal attacks and threats to school personnel Monday would undermine the cause.

Most of the parents who spoke were earnest but reasonable, she said.

Ms. Stevenson said she still is concerned about the size of West Middle and hopes the school board can find a solution.

"I'm glad it's not my job to have to find a way, because it's going to be a tough solution to come by," she said.

Mr. Mish said he hopes the board can persuade the county and state to build a school in Westminster before 2003.

West Middle has 1,289 students, which is 294 over capacity. The entire seventh grade is in portable classrooms. The school is growing at a rate of 50 students a year, and is expected to reach 1,680 students by 2001.

Vernon Smith, director of support services, said he had been expecting Monday's hearing to be marked by anger. The redistricting proposal was only one possible solution under consideration by school administrators to relieve crowding.

Mr. Smith said his main concern was that relieving the crowding at West Middle could jeopardize the county's chances to get state money to build the permanent solution -- a middle school in Westminster.

The board and staff never actually championed the idea to begin with, Ms. Ballard said. The County Commissioners this winter asked the board to consider larger schools, larger class sizes and redrawing district lines as a way to save money.

Officials said the only situation in the county where redistricting would have made sense was the crowded West Middle to Northwest Middle, which has room for another 250 students.

Pub Date: 3/29/96

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