Parents propose adding 6th grade Woodbridge Elementary plan aimed at easing middle school crowding

March 26, 1997|By Marego Athans | Marego Athans,SUN STAFF

In a first step toward solving middle school crowding in Baltimore County, school officials and parents at Woodbridge Elementary are proposing to add a sixth grade to their school next year, forming the county's only elementary with a sixth grade.

The plan, developed by parents and presented by administrators to the school board last night, comes amid months of controversy over proposals to handle bulging middle schools by making elementary schools serve kindergarten through eighth grade.

The county's elementary schools go up to grade five.

Earlier proposals to add grades six, seven and eight to Cedarmere and Hernwood elementaries in the northwest -- to relieve crowding at Deer Park Middle in Randallstown -- fell victim to a veto by the county executive, tight construction budgets and, in some cases, parent opposition and suspicion.

When County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger told school officials and parents that the county couldn't create K-8 schools next year because construction money already had been allocated to projects with more pressing needs, school officials turned to the K-6 idea, which would require no construction.

Cedarmere parents balk

Cedarmere parents, who wanted a K-8 school, balked. The group is protesting a 7-year-old redistricting decision that moved their middle-schoolers from Franklin Middle in their home community of Reisterstown to Deer Park Middle in Randallstown.

Hernwood parents never wanted the K-8 school; they didn't want older children grouped with younger ones and didn't trust the school system to come through with the necessary building additions, said PTA President Connie Lipscomb.

But parents at Woodbridge Elementary liked the idea of combining the two age groups, and creating a smaller, more personalized environment for middle-school children, who are at a difficult age.

Even though they've received no commitments that the building will eventually house all three middle-school grades, they're hoping this is the first step on that road, said PTA President Sam Sumedi.

In a largely parent-led movement, Woodbridge parents are forging ahead with the plan for a sixth grade that would operate in academic "teams" like a regular middle school. A public hearing is scheduled for April 15 and a school board vote May 13.

Woodbridge has option

Woodbridge children would have the option of remaining at the school for sixth grade or going to Southwest Academy, their assigned middle school.

Southwest is expected to be 162 students over capacity next year, and by 2003 projected to be 530 students over capacity, said Richard Barranger, the area superintendent. Woodbridge is under capacity by about 140 students.

All this leaves few immediate solutions to crowding at Deer Park Middle, which is expecting a 300-seat addition by 2002, but even that won't accommodate the rapid development.

Parents from Cedarmere and Hernwood have formed a coalition to push their solutions.

They want to scrap the planned addition at Deer Park, which they say will create too large a school, and instead build a middle school in the New Town development, accommodating students from both Cedarmere and Hernwood.

"Just wipe it out. There's no reason to take a step in the wrong direction," Barney Wilson, Cedarmere PTA's vice president told the board. "We don't want mega-giant middle schools."

Meanwhile, Cedarmere parents said, they want their children redistricted back to Franklin Middle.

Pub Date: 3/26/97

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