Parents of Mayo Elementary pupils upset at move to Annapolis Middle

Relocation necessitated by construction of new school in old one's place

February 18, 2000|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Superintendent Carol S. Parham announced yesterday her decision to relocate Mayo Elementary School pupils and staff to Annapolis Middle School for the next two years during the construction of their new school.

The move, which will affect about 340 pupils, has angered some Mayo parents, who are worried about bus travel time to Annapolis and the mixing of elementary and middle school pupils in one building.

"That was completely against our recommendations," said Robin Greulich, the head of an advisory committee that has studied the issue since October.

Greulich said the Mayo parents and faculty overwhelmingly supported moving the Mayo pupils to Central Elementary School in nearby Edgewater.

"Our children will be on a bus for an hour every morning and every afternoon, which will put them home at dark," said Greulich, an Edgewater resident. "My 8-year-old will be getting off a school bus at dark."

Parham acknowledged yesterday that the move from a tiny school in a peninsula community to one in urban Annapolis will be difficult. But she maintained that Annapolis Middle School will be the best temporary home for Mayo pupils, and the most cost-effective solution for the school system.

"This is certainly not an easy decision," Parham said. "On any decision I always try to get public input and hear what people have to say. But quite frankly, I still have some very hard decisions to make, from the perspective of trying to bring balance and what's appropriate for the school system."

In reaching her decision, Parham said she weighed the recommendations of citizen advisory groups from Mayo and Central elementaries, school system instructional staff, and information provided by the system's planning, transportation and construction divisions.

Parham pointed out that Mayo pupils will be housed in a separate wing of Annapolis Middle School. She noted that the school has previously provided a temporary location for Mills Parole and South Shore Elementary during construction projects.

Built in 1936 -- with additions in 1959 and 1963 -- Mayo Elementary is one of the county's oldest. It sits in the center of a waterfront community, which has seen substantial residential development in the past few years.

The school has posted some of the county's highest scores on statewide student achievement tests and has been designated as a National Blue Ribbon school for its academic excellence.

County school officials plan to tear down the existing structure in June to begin construction on an $11 million replacement. Plans call for the new Mayo Elementary to open in August 2002.

In Parham's letter to Mayo parents and staff, sent out yesterday, she said that the costs of sending Mayo pupils to Central Elementary School were prohibitive because of the need for seven portable classrooms, and a bathroom and a portable office. She also wrote that the school's gymnasium, cafeteria and computer lab could not accommodate the extra pupils.

Transportation is Greulich's main objection to the relocation. As part of a test drive, she said she left Annapolis Middle at 4: 15 p.m. and arrived at her daughter's bus stop at 4: 55 p.m.

"My child plays sports, and all that will cease next year if she does not get off the school bus until 5 p.m., and she has homework," Greulich said.

Victoria Waidner, the principal at Mayo Elementary for 13 years, said Annapolis Middle is probably the better choice for the temporary move because of the portable classroom issue.

"It would have been more of a hardship there [at Central Elementary] for students and staff," she said. "Either place could have worked out, but she [Parham] had to look at the pros and cons of each and what was best for the students."

The relocation to Annapolis Elementary School is nothing new to Waidner. During her 14-year stint as principal at Annapolis Elementary School, she moved there temporarily with her school in the early 1980s.

"I've had the experience of being in the building and knowing how it works," she said. "We will be self-contained, and it will feel like our own school."

She said the demolition of Mayo Elementary will be hard on parents, pupils and staff, who have developed a strong attachment to the school. In some cases, generations of families in the community have attended the school.

"The one good thing is that this new school will be built on the same spot and not moved further down the road," Waidner said. "It will retain its significance in the community."

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