School plan never discussed with local residents [Letter]

December 19, 2013

On the matter of reopening Loch Raven Elementary School and moving the Halstead Academy population to Loch Raven, Baltimore County Superintendent of Schools Dallas Dance has been less than candid about the role that the Loch Raven Village and Knettishall communities and other stakeholders have played in the process ("Loch Raven Village residents protest outside Balto. Co. Board of Education," Nov. 5). Either that or people who advise him have been sloppy with their facts.

An Oct. 30 notice on the Baltimore County Public Schools website reads as follows:

"After six months of community engagement, Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent Dallas Dance will recommend to the Board of Education, at its November 5, 2013, meeting, several proposals to relieve capacity issues in the central areas of Baltimore County."

Further on:

"In the central area, the school system proposes to reopen a 500-seat Loch Raven Elementary School and relocate the students and staff of Halstead Academy there … and renovate the current Halstead Academy building to accommodate a new countywide school."

A misleading phrase begins a later paragraph: "By working closely with our community and government stakeholders…"

Mr. Dance gives the impression that the communities of Loch Raven Village and Knettishall had been participants in the development of plans. In fact, we were not consulted and had no input into this flawed plan that affects our communities profoundly. After residents found out that something was afoot many attended an open meeting on Oct. 29, two days before the above-noted release date, to find out what the architectural firm's proposed solutions were.

Two residents were given an opportunity to speak at the Nov. 5 board meeting and asked that we be consulted before the plan was approved. The board subsequently voted to support Superintendent Dance's proposal. We still have not been consulted while the school system moves ahead with its plan. We have no idea what the actual site plan is to this date or of existence of a feasibility study. Surely, the consultant must have some concept else how could they present anything to Superintendent Dance and the school board? Why can't the plan's details be shared with the communities affected?

Are Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and other elected officials supporting a multi-million-dollar taxpayer-financed project without anything but verbal information? To the best of my knowledge, letters and emails from community residents to Mr. Dance and County Executive Kamenetz, BCPS officials and some elected officials have never been answered. Classic stonewalling! This type of management is not what we should expect from public officials.

John Kelly, Towson

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