Busing plan angers parents

Annapolis Middle to hold Mayo children while school is built

Many object to commute

No room available to send 300 pupils to closer elementary

February 29, 2000|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Angered by a plan to bus their children to Annapolis Middle School for two years during the construction of a new Mayo Elementary School, parents plan to take their arguments to the Board of Education when it meets tomorrow.

"We are going to fight this," said Robin Greulich, the parent of a Mayo third-grader, who is leading an effort to appeal Superintendent Carol S. Parham's decision, announced Feb. 17.

Mayo Elementary parents say their main objection to the Annapolis Middle move is the bus travel time for their children. They say the trip is 45 minutes each way in rush-hour traffic, and that a Route 2 road-widening project -- to begin in April -- will make the bus ride longer.

"That's two hours added onto their day," said Carol Welser, Mayo Elementary's PTA president. "It will take away any chance they have for after-school sports or music lessons. By the time they get home, they'll be able to have dinner and go to bed."

The reaction of Mayo Elementary parents to Parham's decision has been strong and swift.

A meeting last week on the temporary relocation drew more than 100 people upset about the move from a tiny school in a peninsula community to one in urban Annapolis. A second meeting is scheduled for 7 tonight at Mayo Kiwanis Club, on Carr's Wharf Road. During the past week, Mayo parents have been collecting signatures of those opposed to the plan, which would affect about 340 pupils.

Mayo Elementary parents have 30 days from Parham's decision to file an appeal with the school board.

County school officials plan to tear down the 64-year-old Mayo Elementary in June to begin construction on an $11 million replacement. Plans call for the school to open in August 2002.

During the two-year construction project, Mayo pupils will be in a separate wing at Annapolis Middle. The school has previously provided temporary quarters for Mills-Parole and South Shore elementaries during construction projects.

Responding to comments made by some Mayo parents regarding the racial makeup of Annapolis Middle, other parents say their concerns about the move are solely about bus travel time.

"It is strictly a matter of the commute," Greulich said. "That is the only thing we're fighting, the amount of time our children are on the bus. Yes, we're a white community going to a black school, but that is not what this issue is about," she said.

Parham said she reached her decision on the Mayo relocation after weighing the recommendations of citizen advisory groups from Mayo and Central elementaries that studied the issue for four months; school system instructional staff and information provided by the system's planning, transportation and construction divisions.

Although the Mayo committee recommended sending Mayo pupils to Central Elementary in nearby Edgewater, Parham found the cost prohibitive. In a letter to Mayo parents and staff, she said the move to Central would require seven portable classrooms.

"We are in full support of Dr. Parham's decision," said Cynthia Smith, PTA president at Central Elementary and a member of the school's relocation advisory committee. She said Central Elementary's enrollment is at capacity, and an additional 300 students would create safety problems and severe crowding.

"When you sat down and looked at it on paper, you saw it wasn't going to work," Smith said.

"They're getting all of the advantages," she added, referring to the Mayo community. "They're getting a brand new school, and we're getting nothing."

Tracey Kirchner, a Mayo Elementary parent, said many families are considering home schooling or sending their children to private schools unless school officials reconsider the move to Annapolis Middle.

Although Greulich and her husband discussed the option of private school for their daughter, they decided against it.

"We are not going to admit defeat," said Greulich, who headed the Mayo relocation advisory committee. "I have the right for my child to be in Mayo Elementary School. She will be the fourth generation in our family to go there."

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