Alternative education

Expansion: School system and county should think big thoughts on helping disruptive students.

March 09, 2001

ANNE ARUNDEL County Executive Janet S. Owens and the County Council won't get a chance to decide this year whether their alternative high school should be expanded.

The Board of Education didn't include the proposal in its $594 million budget recommendation that's headed to the county executive for the next fiscal year. Planning and construction snafus got in the way.

But now that school officials and board members have a breather to rethink the Mary E. Moss Academy expansion, they ought to think bigger.

The proposal that bit the dust last month would have doubled the alternative school's size from 80 to 160. That would have helped, but would it have been enough?

Baltimore has four alternative schools, and Baltimore County has six. Howard County's school system, which is smaller than Anne Arundel's, has one.

The students at Mary Moss in Anne Arundel have had trouble in their home high schools for one reason or another. Some got there after a long trail of nuisance behaviors - "high fliers," Leslie Mobray, the system's director of student services, calls them. Others are there because of few but serious infractions.

The Crownsville school serves two purposes: It helps troubled students get structured educational services better tailored to them, with more counseling. And it gets them out of their former classrooms where disruptions by one student can pull down 30. But in a system with more than 74,000 kids, Mary Moss isn't enough.

It will take more than doubling the size of this alternative program to meet the needs of the county's troubled kids.

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