News from around the Baltimore region

September 01, 2005

School system accused of thwarting opening


Parents of pupils at a science and technology charter school in Hanover accused Anne Arundel County school officials yesterday of trying to shut the charter's doors before they open.

Chesapeake Science Point has not opened on time because of missed deadlines on several state and county requirements, county school officials say.

Although Superintendent Eric J. Smith says officials have worked hard to help the school meet the requirements, angry parents accused school leaders of making regulatory allowances for several county schools that had delayed openings while drawing a line in the sand for the charter school.

If the school does not obtain a building occupancy permit today, county and school officials said, the school will not open until the 2006-2007 school year, and all 120 sixth- and seventh-graders registered to attend there this year will have to choose another option - such as enrolling in their neighborhood public school by tomorrow. When the decision was announced at a meeting yesterday, parents loudly heckled the officials.

"That is not in the best interest of our children if you just close the book," said Jim Tacka, whose daughter, Carly, 11, is scheduled to attend the school this year. "That's unacceptable," he said to the applause of about 60 parents and children.

Later in the meeting, Tacka said to school officials: "It seems to me like there is a political undercurrent here that wants to stop this process."

Smith and Kathy Lane, director of alternative education for county schools, said they believed the school would meet requirements and open for pupils Tuesday.

Lane distributed a list highlighting unresolved issues, including the building permit, insurance coverage and proof of eligibility to work in the United States for several prospective charter school employees.

"However this works out, we stand ready to serve you as parents," Smith said. "If the school doesn't open, we will bend over backward for you to get them enrolled."

Matt Diehl, a spokesman for County Executive Janet S. Owens, said inspectors are working overtime to "help the school receive the occupancy permit."

Lane said parents would receive a call from her or from the neighborhood school of their children if the permit does not go through.

-Bradley Olson


State to purchase more electronic voting machines

The Maryland Board of Public Works agreed yesterday to buy more of the electronic voting machines that have been the subject of intense scrutiny and debate since they were first used in four counties in 2002.

The state will spend $7.9 million to buy machines from Diebold Election Systems Inc. for use in Baltimore, which had purchased a different touch screen system and was allowed to use its machines until next year's election.

The board also agreed to spend $2.3 million to buy more machines for Prince George's, Montgomery and Baltimore counties because of big increases in voter registration.

Also approved was a $6.1 million contract for maintenance and management services for the electronic voting system.

Critics of the Diebold machines say they are unreliable and subject to fraud, allegations that have been vigorously denied by Diebold and Maryland election officials.

One complaint about the machines is that there is not a paper trail that can be used to verify individual votes. Legislative committees are working on proposals that would require adding some sort of verifiable paper trail to the existing machines.

- Associated Press


Ravens game will affect traffic near stadium today

Baltimore transportation officials are warning motorists of traffic restrictions around M&T Bank Stadium for the preseason football game between the Ravens and the Washington Redskins, which kicks off at 8 tonight.

One lane of southbound Russell Street will be open through the evening rush-hour. Starting at 3:30 p.m., the ramp from Interstate 95 to northbound Russell Street will be closed. At the start of the game, two lanes of southbound Russell Street will be open until 3 a.m. And one lane northbound on Russell Street will be open until 3 a.m.

The city's Department of Transportation urges people attending the game to arrive early and park in commercial lots near the stadium and to avoid parking in residential neighborhoods. Parking restrictions are in place in the communities around the stadium, and cars could be towed.


Closing arguments due today in arson conspiracy trial

A federal jury in Baltimore will hear closing arguments this morning in the trial of a Prince George's County man accused of engineering one of the largest residential arsons in state history.

Starting at 9 a.m., prosecutors and defense attorneys for Patrick S. Walsh, who has pleaded not guilty to setting fire at the Hunters Brooke community in Indian Head on Dec. 6, will have their final chance to square off before jurors begin their deliberations.

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