Parents voice opinions about schools plan

Some seek 13th high school, while others lobby to keep two elementaries open

June 09, 1999|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

About 300 parents and students packed the school board hearing room last night -- some to lobby Superintendent Carol S. Parham and the board for a 13th high school and others to protest her plan to close two elementary schools.

The purpose of the hearing at school headquarters in Annapolis was to get public response to Parham's 20-year, $27 million plan to remedy crowding in schools.

The plan includes shutting down Belle Grove and Ferndale elementaries and building additions to other schools.

"It's no more than stuffing our children into a school where they won't fit," said Shelby Fox, a Belle Grove parent, who wore a blue apple-shaped badge. Other protesters wore green or yellow badges.

"It's a community school," Fox said. "There is nothing wrong with the building. The children are safe there."

About 50 Belle Grove parents hired a bus to take them to Annapolis for the hearing. They said they love their school -- one of the oldest and smallest in the county -- and do not want their children shifted to nearby schools.

"If they got moved to a larger school, we are worried that they would be lost," Fox said.

Also last night, several parents from Crofton passed out Band-Aids to protest Parham's failure to include a 13th high school for the west county in her plan.

"We need more than just a quick fix to this problem," said Sharon Puckett, whose children attend Crofton Woods Elementary School in west county. "They have had the money in the budget to do this before. We need a politician that will make this a cause."

Parham said a 13th high school would be too disruptive because it would probably require redistricting 7,300 students. She has acknowledged that because of the fast growth in west county, a new high school probably will be needed in the future and suggested another study in 2005.

But parents say they need the facility now.

The board has scheduled a work session Monday to discuss Parham's proposal and the responses of parents who attended last night's meeting. No public testimony will be allowed during the work session at school headquarters in Annapolis.

On June 16, the board will give Parham some additional solutions to study this summer, and a final decision probably will be made later this year.

At last night's hearing, many parents said they supported Parham's recommendation to add a 400-seat addition to North County High School and build a new Marley Middle School.

"North County has suffocated long enough," said Tommy Thompson, president of the Parent, Teacher and Student Organization. "We have done without long enough. We are seriously telling the board to act on Dr. Parham's plan immediately."

Parham's $27 million plan is derived from an independent consultant's report that found shifting school enrollments will cause severe crowding at some schools over the next 20 years. Under her proposal, Belle Grove and Ferndale elementaries would be closed and those pupils redistricted to other schools.

About 600 middle and high school students would be redistricted as well as a significant but undetermined number of elementary school pupils.

Most of the cost of Parham's plan would go toward construction, including a 400-seat addition to North County High, probably during the 2000-2001 school year. The nearly 1,800 students at the school would attend classes in split shifts during construction.

A 400-seat addition to Southern Middle School, a new Marley Middle School and an addition to Northeast High School also are planned and included in the $27 million cost.

Chesapeake Bay Middle School, which has an enrollment of about 1,700 pupils, would be divided into two middle schools under Parham's plan.

While the consultants recommended a similar plan, it required redistricting about 3,000 students and was about $10 million cheaper than Parham's proposal. But Parham said it did not consider state guidelines for school capacity, nor did it add cafeteria space in schools where they suggested putting more classrooms and more students.

Under the consultants' recommendations, students at some schools with small cafeterias would have to eat lunch as early as 9: 40 a.m.

Pub Date: 6/09/99

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