The parents and children of Ferndale have made their strongest appeal yet to the Anne Arundel County school board in their fight to save their beloved but crumbling elementary school.
About 50 Ferndale residents took a chartered bus to the board meeting in Annapolis on Wednesday night, where they presented a petition to save Ferndale Elementary School that was signed by 1,093 people, along with 78 letters, including some from young children.
Eddie Layton, a second-grader at Ferndale, wrote on loose-leaf paper: "Please keep Ferndale Elementary School open. I like my school because it makes me feel safe. I like that most teachers know me. Please fix my school."
That would cost from $3 million to $9 million, the school system estimates. The school needs a new roof, new walls, new floors in some places and other things like sprinklers, according to an engineering report.
The room that doubles as a cafeteria and gym floods after normal rainfall. The report said the building "has been made almost uninhabitable by constant water intrusion."
The 76-year-old Ferndale Elementary is one of the county's oldest schools and, with 155 pupils, is its smallest.
The school board voted last year against giving Ferndale the money it needs to be fixed. But the board also voted against closing the school, a central part of its working-class community near Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Now the board must decide whether to put Ferndale on its list of priority projects that will be sent to the county executive for funding. For Ferndale supporters Wednesday night, the answer was easy.
"This school felt like an extension of my family," said Megan Cramer, a North County High School freshman and Ferndale graduate. "All the teachers know your name, and sometimes even your pets'. "
Louise E. Layton Jr., chairwoman of the Save the Ferndale Elementary School committee, told the board, "The problem with Ferndale is not that it is old or its lower enrollment. The brutal reality is that our school is marred by serious neglect."
Board members offered little response Wednesday night. They will discuss their 2003 budget in a workshop Monday night and will finalize their list of priority construction projects early next month.
The board, however, can make changes until February, when the budget must be submitted to the county executive.
Board member Joseph Foster said he was impressed with the number of Ferndale supporters who turned out to make passionate pleas for their school.
"I think they had a good presentation," he said.
Many of the school's advocates held signs during the hearing: "We love Ferndale," "Keep Ferndale Alive!" and "Ferndale is the heart and soul of our community."
As the hearing was winding down, board member Vaughn Brown complimented a man who had held a sign aloft for two hours.
"I admire your perseverance," Brown said.
Someone responded, "Then give us our money!"