Pasadena schools plan draws fire Parents are irate at board's effort to redraw boundaries

'Ripping us apart'

Bid to shift students from Fox Middle to Chesapeake assailed

February 25, 1997|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Furious parents told the Anne Arundel County school board last night that its latest proposal to redraw school boundaries for Pasadena is a disaster.

About 150 people gave standing ovations to two dozen speakers who expressed opposition to a plan to relieve crowding at George Fox Middle School by shifting to Chesapeake Bay Middle School 270 students who ordinarily would attend George Fox.

The board is proposing to take all of Riviera Beach Elementary's students and some of Sunset Elementary's pupils out of the Northeast High School feeder system for middle school only beginning in August.

The students, in grades six, seven and eight, would attend Chesapeake Bay Middle School in the Chesapeake High School feeder system but then return to Northeast for high school.

"This is tearing our community apart, just ripping us apart," Sue Smither, a Sunset Elementary parent activist, said as she left the public hearing.

Parents clearly were exasperated. Efforts to redistrict the peninsula -- often with community groups working on them -- have gone on for a decade as George Fox has grown increasingly crowded.

Compounding the problem this year is the realization that with three large housing developments planned for Pasadena, school boundaries will have to be adjusted for years to come.

Nearly everyone who spoke said that George Fox, with a capacity of 1,053 students, cried out for an addition to accommodate a burgeoning student population. Chesapeake Bay Middle really is two middle schools with a capacity of about 1,930, but parents dispute exactly how much space goes unused now.

Some people wanted to see current George Fox students allowed to remain there; others wanted the option of letting George Fox parents choose; some wanted all Sunset children kept together; others did not want Riviera Beach children bused to the far end of the peninsula. Still others said they were just sick and tired of what has become an annual event.

Several members of a task force organized by schools Superintendent Carol S. Parham exploded with anger over what they considered a slap in the face.

They said they were told by education officials that they could not present their ideas to the board last year and that Parham acknowledged their work but did not follow their recommendations.

"Let me tell you, you have no idea how angry I am at you and at the superintendent. You never saw what we proposed," said Maria Jackson, president of the Pasadena Elementary School PTA.

Jackson echoed other parents who said preadolescents go through enough personal turmoil without the board's adding to it.

"You want to mess with their heads? Send them to Chesapeake and then send them back to Northeast," she said.

"We think this is a really stinky precedent you are trying to set."

Sixth-grader Tara Holste said her George Fox classmates were in tears over the prospect of being torn from their friends.

"I don't think you should be upsetting kids this way," she told the board. "It makes me want to cry, too."

More than 200 George Fox students signed a petition opposing taking them out of the school.

For some families, Northeast schools are a proud tradition.

Estelle Hardesty said four of her five grandchildren had gone through Riviera Beach and George Fox, and that she resented the latest effort to separate the youngest from a family tradition.

"I am not going to see her sent to Chesapeake because somebody was stupid enough to build Chesapeake too big and TC forget about us over here at George Fox," Hardesty said to thunderous applause.

The board will vote in April on new school boundaries.

Pub Date: 2/25/97

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