Students Given Choice Of Schools

Chesapeake Bay Middle 6th-, 7th-graders Can Stay

April 19, 2009|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,

About 110 sixth- and seventh-graders at Chesapeake Bay Middle School have the option of continuing at their current school until high school under a plan approved by the Anne Arundel County school board.

The board voted to approve the superintendent's redistricting plan, which would return middle-schoolers from the Riviera Beach Elementary School area to George Fox Middle School but give sixth- and seventh-graders at Chesapeake Bay the option of remaining at the school. The board voted for the school department to provide transportation, despite protests from some board members over spending more money when the school department has an estimated $54 million shortfall.

Alex L. Szachnowicz, chief operating officer for the county schools, said he estimated it would cost between $65,000 and $130,000 to provide transportation for the grandfathered students, adding that there would be only a minimal savings if the busing were provided from a regional hub, as opposed to door-to-door service.

Maxwell's redistricting plan for the Riviera Beach Elementary area had intended to return middle school students to George Fox Middle, undoing a redistricting plan from 1997 that placed the area's middle schoolers at Chesapeake Bay, outside of the Northeast High School feeder system.

But parents raised concerns about disrupting middle school students, already an academically struggling demographic. The school board had agreed to hold a public hearing on the issue, which occurred during the county school board meeting Wednesday night.

Lance Anthony, the parent of a seventh-grader at Chesapeake Bay and an elementary school student, seemed to represent the sentiment of the majority of the parents, saying he approved the redistricting plan but wanted available an option for current Chesapeake Bay students to remain.

He said his fifth-grade daughter didn't mind going to George Fox, but his seventh-grade daughter, Destiny, was desperate to stay at Chesapeake Bay.

"She had a tough time adjusting the first time," Anthony said of Destiny's transition from elementary school. "It was a long process. But she's doing well now. She's making the honor roll. To rip her out now, I'm afraid what would happen to her grades."

Stephen York, the parent of 12-year-old Danielle York, a seventh-grader at Chesapeake Bay, spoke passionately before the board of the negative impact changing schools would have on his daughter. After the board's decision, York said, "This is a win for the kids."

Board members Tricia Johnson and Patricia Nalley said they sympathized with the parents and students.

"It's a hard transition," Johnson said, referring to the change from elementary to middle school. "Those three years are very tough. If they're already there, we want them to stay here. But it's the money. How much it costs."

Board member Eugene Peterson, referencing the school department's budget deficit, said, "So $5 there, $10 there ... $50,000 there ... pretty soon, in the words of ... Everett Dirksen ... 'You're talking about real money,' So that weighs heavily on my mind."

Ultimately, the board approved the measure. 7-0, and instructed the school department to provide transportation for the grandfathered students on a "reasonable" basis, taking into account finances, efficiency and student safety.

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