Plan would shift fifth-graders


Carroll County school board members unanimously approved a compromise plan last night to move nearly 200 fifth-graders this fall from Hampstead and Manchester elementaries to a cluster of portable classrooms at North Carroll Middle School.

The five-member board approved a plan that allows a one-year exemption for Hampstead parents who make a written request to the principal that their children not be moved to North Carroll during the 2006-2007 school year. After that, Hampstead fifth-graders who are bound for North Carroll would be required to attend fifth grade at the middle school.

To ease crowding at both elementary schools and to help accommodate construction of all-day kindergarten classrooms, Superintendent Charles I. Ecker said, school officials need to move all of this fall's fifth-graders from Manchester to North Carroll Middle and about half of the fifth-graders from Hampstead.

Six parents addressed board members before the vote. One said she supported Ecker's proposal as "the necessary evil for the safety and well-being of our students and the North Carroll community." Others pleaded with the board to let their children spend their fifth-grade year in elementary school.

"This is not unlike redistricting," said board member C. Scott Stone. "Rarely is there a unanimous or significant majority favoring one way or the other."

Ecker said his primary concern was the effect of crowded classrooms on the children's education.

"This is a difficult thing," he said. "I'm concerned about not only the fifth-graders, but about kindergarten through fourth grade in a crowded school."

School officials have projected that Hampstead, with 583 pupils, will be at 117 percent of capacity this fall and that Manchester, with 767 pupils, will be at 120 percent of capacity,

At North Carroll, fifth-graders would attend nearly all classes in the portables. They would go into the main building for media classes, physical education and lunch, according to the proposal.

Parents said the move would unnecessarily separate peers, leave little time to prepare children for the transition and thrust children into the middle school environment before they were ready.

In addition to relieving crowding, the planned move to the middle school - estimated to cost about $373,500 - would provide flexibility to move pupils as construction begins, school officials said.

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