Crowding may force transfer of pupils

Plan would send 270 from West Middle to Hampstead school

Parents worry over move

January 20, 1999|By John Murphy | John Murphy,SUN STAFF

About 270 pupils from Westminster's severely crowded West Middle School would be moved to Hampstead under a plan officials are considering to avoid the costs of a new school.

If approved, the proposal would eliminate the need for a new $15 million middle school in Westminster, under consideration for years, school officials said.

But it could cause problems for the transferred pupils, who would be pulled out of Westminster for three years to attend a new middle school in Hampstead, then return to Westminster High School, parents said.

Kathleen Sanner, Carroll's director of support services, announced the proposal yesterday while presenting school enrollment projections to the county planning commission.

Though reluctant to discuss details, Sanner said the proposal is one of several redistricting options that will be presented to the school board at its meeting Feb. 10. She said the details of the other options are being worked out.

West Middle School, which has an enrollment of 1,158 despite a stated capacity of 1,025, is one of the county's most crowded schools.

The school board had hoped to ease overcrowding with a new Westminster middle school, which it had planned to open in 2003. But demands placed on the rapidly growing county may force school officials to explore other options -- including moving West Middle pupils to Hampstead.

"It will help the county through a difficult fiscal situation," Sanner said yesterday.

Under the proposal, pupils who live in the Sandymount attendance area south of Westminster would attend Shiloh Middle School in Hampstead. It is scheduled to open in August 2000, with space for 750.

Sanner said enough pupils would be moved to Hampstead to return West Middle to its capacity of 1,025 students. Enrollment at the new Hampstead school is projected at under capacity, leaving enough room for some West Middle pupils.

Though the plan would have financial benefits for the cash-strapped district, parents expressed reservations.

Rose Pandolfini, president of West Middle School's PTO, agreed that transferring pupils to the new Hampstead school would ease crowding. Still, she expressed concerns about the proposal.

"The biggest problem is the socialization of those students," she said. "They will be going to a middle school that is not a feeder school to their high school."

Many pupils would be forced to make new friends if most of their classmates move on to a different high school, she said.

"They will make best friends in middle school and then go to high school where their friends aren't," she said.

The travel time to Hampstead might also cause problems for parents and children, she said.

"It is a distance. If there's something going on after school, you'll be less likely to go than if it were closer," Pandolfini said.

Beth Tevis, a member of the newly formed Citizens for Schools, a grass-roots organization pushing for a second Westminster high school, said she understood the school board's need to consider redistricting.

"I know the school board is under extreme duress in terms of financial concerns," she said.

But she said she would be concerned about moving pupils between communities.

"That is not a good thing. It's difficult as it is that they get shuffled from one school to the next," she said.

This is not the first time school officials have proposed boundary changes to ease crowding at West Middle.

Last year, the Board of Education approved sending some pupils from West Middle to New Windsor Middle School. Because of a domino effect, 48 New Windsor Middle pupils were sent to Northwest Middle School, which is under capacity.

Pub Date: 1/20/99

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