Disperse 'special' students among schoolsI have several...


December 08, 1996

Disperse 'special' students among schools

I have several suggestions for the new Baltimore City public schools leadership team.

First, immediately stop the practice of moving middle-school students to high school merely because they are too old, too mature or just too large to remain in middle school. Thousands of kids are ''socially promoted'' (certain groups don't want to use this phrase although that is what it is) and enter high school unprepared to do high school work (where they actually have to earn credits to be promoted).

Students who miss 150 days can be moved on to high school at the discretion of middle-school promotional committees. There should be special schools designed for these students, many of whom end up being the disruptive elements in their new schools, which is a problem also long ignored by the city school system.

Second, because of the extensive paperwork involved in dealing with this population and because of the special-education consent degree, Baltimore City public schools would be better served by spreading the system's special-needs population among all of the high schools, using the addresses of the students to zone them.

Patterson High School presently has approximately 400 special-needs students. The numbers are probably similar in the other zoned schools. Citywide schools such as City, Poly, Western and Dunbar have few, if any, special-needs students.

The law requires the ''least restrictive environment'' for special-needs students. But special-needs students who live within walking distance of Dunbar currently must take several buses to attend Patterson because Dunbar has no program for special-needs students. This hardly is the ''least restrictive environment.''

Jonathan L. Jacobson


The writer is head of the social studies department at Patterson High School.

BWI train station parking costs too much

The overpriced parking at Penn Station is another example of bureaucrats' ''we know what is best'' attitude (The Sun, Nov. 23).

Overpriced parking is about to start at MARC's BWI train station. Marc plans to charge $5 a day or $40 a month to park at its new BWI train garage. Since a monthly train ticket between BWI and Washington costs $123, the $40 parking fee represents a hefty 33 percent increase in monthly commuting costs. Moreover, information provided to users of the garage shows that MARC will recover its construction cost for the garage in about seven years.

Following the same pattern used at the Penn Station garage, MARC has posted ''No Parking'' on surrounding streets in an attempt to force commuters to use the BWI garage. This forces many commuters to other MARC train stations, such as Odenton or Halethorpe, where parking is free, leaving the new BWI train station garage with many vacant spaces.

Veronica Gruber


Penn Station parking woes

The Sun's Nov. 23 editorial, "Penn Station headaches," notes in passing that the station's new parking garage was over-priced, "nearby street parking was eliminated to force commuters into the $12 spaces" (where the cost was later reduced to $8 a day).

The city apparently knows that it is doing something wrong, as it has refused to acknowledge that the reason it eliminated street parking was to force commuters into the parking garage. It claims instead that it converted the 10-hour meters on Lanvale Street to two-hour meters to "effectively create turnover in areas where parking is both limited and in demand."

Yet the city knows that the vast majority of the meters on Lanvale Street are never used, because there are very few businesses in the area. When they were 10-hour meters, they were all used by commuters.

Henry Cohen


Ehrlich denies homework allegation

In his Nov. 14 column, "Homework doesn't call for a congressional probe," Michael Olesker erroneously refers to my office's peripheral involvement in a dispute between a parent and a teacher at Parkville Middle School as part of a ''congressional probe."

As I am sure Mr. Olesker understands, members of Congress are routinely contacted by constituents seeking help with non-federal problems. My office cannot (and does not) directly intervene in such instances. However, we do put constituents in contact with the individual, organization or agency that can help them.

On Oct. 22, Vicki Chambers of my staff was contacted by a parent concerned about her son's participation in a math project (the boy in question is a special education student; his mother suffers from multiple sclerosis). Before contacting our office, the distraught parent met with the teacher who had assigned the zTC project. Mrs. Chambers informed the parent that this was not a congressional matter and advised her to set up a meeting with the school principal to discuss her concerns.

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