School board gets assignment input Panel urges students from 5 feeder schools be sent to Meade middle

November 12, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A community panel voted overwhelmingly last night to recommend that the school board assign graduating students from five elementary schools to the new Meade Area Middle School. Students from five other schools will continue to graduate to the 30-year-old MacArthur Middle.

The group decided to recommend that Severn, Jessup, Brock Bridge, Meade Heights and Van Bokkelen students be sent to the new $24.4 million school, scheduled to open in 1997.

Van Bokkelen has more students from poor families than any elementary school in the county, and students' test scores were so low that it has been threatened with a state takeover. Brock Bridge and Meade Heights have dangerously low test scores. Most Meade Heights students are children of enlisted military personnel at Fort Meade. Severn Elementary is being moved into the Meade schools from the Old Mill feeder system.

The panel recommended keeping at the aging MacArthur Middle three elementary schools dominated by Fort Meade officers' children -- Pershing Hill, West Meade and Manor View -- plus Harman and Maryland City.

Among the schools recommended for MacArthur, Maryland City has very low test scores and Harman has one of the highest percentages of children from poor families.

The decision concerning what middle school students are assigned to is one full of emotion and controversy, with parents hTC worrying about a school's reputation, its teachers, its distance from home and whether their children will be in school with friends.

Key to the success of the redistricting, according to MacArthur Middle Principal M. Jacques Smith, is to balance the populations between the two schools so that when the children reach Meade High School, teachers will not be able to tell which students come from which middle school.

"I think we've got a good mix and good diversity," said Ed Higgins, a MacArthur Middle School parent who helped devise the proposal the group accepted.

Shelly Shaplin, in charge of all community panels making redistricting recommendations, said she will present these at a Nov. 20 school board meeting.

Distance is not an issue since the buildings are about a half-mile apart. Instruction at the two schools will be nearly identical.

Even though MacArthur will be the most technologically advanced middle school in the county by next spring, its lack of air-conditioning is a sore point.

All Meade-area seventh- and eighth-graders attend MacArthur Middle now, and sixth-graders are still in elementary schools. The second middle school will provide space for sixth-graders and alleviate some crowding.

Superintendent Carol S. Parham said she needs recommendations before Dec. 1.

Pub Date: 11/12/96

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