Parents seek consensus on new school

Elementary's boundaries debated in Woodlawn

February 03, 2000|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County school officials are taking a new approach to setting school attendance boundaries, and parents and other community members in the Woodlawn area have gladly consented to be the guinea pigs.

For the first time, parents, teachers and others have joined to decide boundaries for Dogwood Elementary School, which will open in the fall.

The school is being built to relieve crowding at Chadwick, Powhatan and Winfield elementary schools, which are in an area dense with apartment complexes and dotted with new housing developments.

A committee of about 18 parents, teachers and PTA members has been meeting to review boundary options. At Woodlawn High School on Tuesday, they guided others through three proposals.

"I wish more things took into account the community as well as this process did," said committee member Anthony Rollie, vice president of the Chadwick PTA, who helped spotlight crowding there.

"I was around when a lot of the other boundaries were drawn up, but the process is very much improved," he said.

The school board voted to change the process for setting boundaries last month to involve community members earlier.

In the past, parents and teachers were given an opportunity to weigh in on boundary changes during board meetings near the end of the process, when school employees had ruled out all but one option.

At the community meeting Tuesday, about 100 parents and teachers reviewed not one but three options, which made for some tough decisions.

Sitting at tables of eight to 10, residents debated the needs of children and teachers. Many parents wanted their children to attend the new school, which will house 506 students when it opens.

"I want to have my child at Dogwood," said Mark Pagan, 42, of Woodlawn, whose son is a third-grader at Featherbed Lane Elementary School.

Pagan knows that Karen Cordell, the former principal of Featherbed's primary school, will be principal at Dogwood. He wants his son to follow her. "She's put together a good [teaching] team at Featherbed," Pagan said.

To reach a consensus, each table had to focus on what would be best for the community. By the end of the night, most participants agreed on an option called "Dogwood F," which spells out slight boundary changes for Winfield, Hebbville, Woodmoor, Powhatan, Featherbed and Chadwick elementary schools.

The changes would relieve crowding at Chadwick and Powhatan, and allow students who live off North Rolling Road to attend schools closer to home.

Pagan's table selected a different option, "Dogwood E," which would leave the new school with more space for special education programs and allow some satellite students to attend schools closer to home.

Comments from Tuesday's meeting will be presented to the superintendent's staff at a meeting Feb. 24, said Donna Smither, superintendent for the southwest area. After that, the school board will consider the recommendations and make a decision.

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