Board hears school plans

Elementary parents renew objections to Annapolis transfer

Chief rejects options

Southern High, Davidsonville unfeasible, he says


March 27, 2002|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

Mayo Elementary School parents renewed their objections last night to the transfer of their children to quarters at Annapolis Middle while a new Mayo school is built, and asked the school board to consider other options.

In a hearing before the school board to appeal the transfer to Annapolis, the parents asked that their children be sent instead to a soon-to-be-vacant Davidsonville Elementary building or Southern High School because they are closer to home.

But in testimony last night, interim Superintendent Kenneth P. Lawson rejected those options as unfeasible and said Annapolis Middle was the best place to relocate the 300 Mayo children for the two years it takes to build a new school.

The school board is expected to decide the issue in a closed meeting by next week and could bring to an end several years of impassioned debate on the subject.

"Bad things are going to happen to the Mayo children if they go to Annapolis Middle School," said Lynn Krause, a lawyer for three Mayo families and eight community groups appealing the transfer.

He said the commute from Mayo to Annapolis is 45 minutes, and that the bus ride for some children would be up to an hour and 20 minutes - meaning some children would be getting home in the dark during winter.

If Mayo children are transferred to Annapolis Middle, their school day would run from 9:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. That would eliminate after-school enrichment, music and athletic programs, Krause said.

Davidsonville Elementary and Southern High are just 11- or 12-minute commutes from Mayo, Krause said.

A new Davidsonville Elementary will open this fall across from the current school. The Mayo parents propose using the old school. Lawson said that plan presents several problems.

"The safety concerns about traffic on [Route] 214, about parking and about mixing buses and cars are strong ones," Lawson said. "I just don't think that's a safe situation." He added that the septic and water systems in the area might not be able to handle both schools.

At Southern High, Lawson said, he was concerned there would not be adequate separation between the high school students and elementary pupils.

For more than two years, the county has been trying to figure out what to do with Mayo Elementary. The school, built in 1936, is one of the oldest in the county. The heating system is old and unreliable. The paint is peeling. The roof is leaking. And the fuses often blow under the strain of a new computer lab.

Former Superintendent Carol S. Parham recommended a new school be built on the site of the current Mayo Elementary, and that its pupils be transferred to Annapolis Middle during construction. Mayo parents quickly protested the plan, and the school board decided to put it off while they explored other options. There weren't many.

Almost all the land on the peninsula has been developed, and the only place to build a new school - other than on the current site - was on 15 acres of environmentally sensitive land across Route 214 from the building.

Two years ago, the school board shelved the relocation plan to explore building on the site across the street. It would have required destroying 8 1/2 acres of forest and an acre of wetlands - for which a request was denied last fall by the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission. That left the current grounds as the only site for the new school.

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