Board hears report on eighth grade at Southern High Not all students like sharing building with younger group

October 16, 1997|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,SUN STAFF

It's the little things that are driving Southern High School junior Kim Garnett nuts. Especially the way the 320 eighth-graders, who joined her school in September -- to relieve overcrowding at Southern Middle School -- are intruding on her life.

They run in the hallways. They're in the band and the drama club. They even went to a bonfire last night, a pep rally to get the high-schoolers geared up for the homecoming football game.

But last night the Anne Arundel County school board heard different reports from Deborah Montgomery, the principal of Southern Middle School in Lothian; Clifton Prince, principal of Southern High School about five miles north in Harwood; and a middle school student.

Prince said that the move has been "a smooth one" and that discipline is not an "overriding concern."

Montgomery said the middle-schoolers have "more elbow room."

Bryant Hall, an eighth-grader, raved that "we've been accepted" by the older students.

The middle-schoolers are expected to be at Southern High for three or four years.

By then a South County Middle School could be built, according to Gregory V. Nourse, acting assistant superintendent for finance and facilities construction.

Last night, the board signed a letter requesting that $900,000 be moved from county funds to the board's budget to plan the purchase of land and construction of the school.

The new school can't be built soon enough for Kim, who wrote an editorial in the school paper, the Watchtower, about the negative effect of the doubling-up.

"I don't think it's fair. The administrators and teachers say we need to make them feel that they belong. It's kind of hard to do that," she said in a telephone interview yesterday. "When you walk down the hall, it's wall to wall. People are just packed in. You have to push your way through the crowd."

But Southern High has the room to accommodate the additional students. Its capacity is 1,617 students, and with the eighth-graders, it has only 1,504, according to the county Educational Facilities Master Plan that was published in July.

The eighth-graders may fit in physically, but not emotionally or as far as maturity is concerned, Kim said.

"They're just obnoxious, which is OK for their age, but if they're in the environment of older kids, they should act appropriately," she said.

But eighth-grader Richard Boswell, 13, reached by phone yesterday, said "it's fun" being at the high school. "You get to be with the older kids."

At first he felt nervous, he said, but then came to realize what a relief it was to be away from crowded Southern Middle, which has a capacity of 897 students but had 962 last year.

Richard said the middle school was so crowded that staircases had to be marked "up" or "down" to keep traffic flowing smoothly. Also, some students worked in eight portable classrooms to relieve crowding in regular classrooms.

And Richard doesn't mind that he doesn't have as many school activities to choose from as high schoolers. "We'll have our chance next year," he said.

Pub Date: 10/16/97

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