Maxwell gives recommendations for Fort Meade redistricting

He agrees with earlier plan devised by group of parents, school officials and residents

December 02, 2010|By Joe Burris, The Baltimore Sun

Anne Arundel County schools Superintendent Kevin Maxwell gave the Board of Education his redistricting recommendations for Fort Meade's elementary schools Wednesday. Part of the plan alleviates overcrowding by turning West Meade Elementary into an early education center.

Maxwell's proposal mirrors what parents, school officials and other Fort Meade residents developed earlier this year as a way to solve school overcrowding. This issue has particular significance because the base is expecting an influx of families by the federal Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) effort.

The group, made up of representatives from each of the schools, met throughout October.

The recommendation calls for moving West Meade Elementary students in grades one through five to the new Pershing Hill Elementary School, scheduled to open in August. Pershing Hill would also serve students who live in the Heritage Park North area and are currently attending Manor View Elementary.

The proposed early education center would serve pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students now attending West Meade and Manor View and those who would attend Pershing Hill.

Current county public school figures show significant overcrowding at Manor View and West Meade. Manor View currently has 608 students, more than 50 above its capacity, and its enrollment is expected to increase to 778 students without redistricting.

West Meade currently has 399 students, 107 more than its capacity, and would remain about the same through 2015 without redistricting. Pershing Hill, with a capacity of 733, currently has 198 students assigned to it without redistricting.

The proposed redistricting, the group said, would keep the area schools under capacity beginning next school term and at least through 2015.

The group excluded Meade Heights Elementary School from its redistricting plans, in part because previous plans dealing with incoming residents from BRAC had included it.

The board will consider Maxwell's and other possible recommendations at a public hearing next month, and must adopt a redistricting plan by April. The measures would take effect next school year.

Besides alleviating overcrowding, the panel also wants to improve conditions at the schools. Among its concerns are West Meade Elementary's lack of air conditioning in its multipurpose room and its lack of playground equipment for early childhood pupils. The group recommends a capital budget item to pay for these.

County schools' chief operating officer Alex L. Szachnowicz acknowledged concerns that parents might have about separating their kindergarten and pre-K children from first- through fifth-graders. Those concerns include having children at two schools, meaning an extra trip to drop them off and pick them up. Yet he compared the proposed learning center to one that now exists in Ferndale.

The Ferndale facility has more than 120 kindergarten and pre-kindergarten pupils.

"They get so much more of an intensive … age-appropriate instruction, and the principal is not, on a daily basis, trying to balance what works for a kindergartner and what works for a sixth-grader," Szachnowicz said.

Board member Eugene Peterson recommended taking care of the air conditioning in West Meade's multipurpose room soon, saying "that's the least we can do with our tax dollars" to help the children of residents serving in the armed forces.

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