Superintendent recommends closing Eastwood Elementary in Dundalk

Plan stems from county proposal to sell government property

(J. Patric Schneider, Baltimore…)
January 22, 2013|By Alison Knezevich, The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore County school Superintendent Dallas Dance has recommended closing Eastwood Center Elementary Magnet Program after this school year, drawing outrage from parents in Dundalk.

School system officials presented the recommendation Tuesday evening to members of the Board of Education at a meeting packed with Eastwood parents. A board vote on the closure is scheduled for March 5.

"Common sense would dictate at least another school year to prepare," parent Michael DiMarzio told the board. "Why this rush?"

A public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. at Dundalk High School. Many parents have complained that they feel the plan appears to be "a done deal."

The proposal stems from County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's plan to sell county properties for development, including the North Point Government Center. As part of that plan, the police precinct located at the government center would relocate to Eastwood, the county's smallest elementary school, which offers a magnet program that focuses on environmental science.

Under the school reorganization plan presented Tuesday, Eastwood, Norwood Elementary and Holabird Middle School would become one school on two campuses, organized as a K-8 magnet program focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Children in pre-kindergarten through third grade would attend school at the building now housing Norwood, and fourth- through eighth-graders would attend Holabird.

Assistant Superintendent Karen Blannard told board members the plan would help balance enrollment at each school and offer magnet education opportunities to more students in Dundalk. Norwood has too many students for its capacity, while Holabird is under capacity, she said. Eastwood is operating at about capacity.

Parents say they have a range of concerns, including the effect of putting younger students in the same building as middle school students. Eastwood, which has 191 students, has small classes, updated technology and resources for special education, parents said.

School board members asked Blannard about various aspects of the plan, including whether research shows the proposed grade-level grouping benefits children, and whether the newly configured school would be able to replicate the tight-knit feel and educational quality that parents feel Eastwood provides.

Board president Lawrence Schmidt said the board hopes to get more information from the administration about the plan.

"We're still in information-gathering mode," he said. "No decisions have been made by the board."

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