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School closures, transparency, future plans for Carroll schools at forefront of second town hall meeting

About 30 people came out to the second town hall-style meeting with Carroll County Public Schools Superintendent Steve Lockard and school board President Bob Lord.
About 30 people came out to the second town hall-style meeting with Carroll County Public Schools Superintendent Steve Lockard and school board President Bob Lord. (Emily Chappell / Carroll County Times)

The closure of three schools, transparency, creative solutions and testing were conversations that dominated the second Carroll County Public Schools town meeting.

About 30 people turned out to the Manchester Valley High School media center Tuesday night, Nov. 27, some of whom were the same people who more than three years ago fought against the closure of North Carroll High School. A majority of the meeting revolved around discussing those closures and their impact on the community.

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Dawn Nee, an attorney from the North Carroll area who was one of the members of a group who filed litigation against CCPS after North Carroll High closed at the end of the 2015-2016 school year, spoke for about 20 minutes at the meeting’s beginning, asking for change and transparency as the school system moves forward.

Nee said she had a lot of direct contact with students who were “in anguish” over the school closing and, while she didn’t want to focus on the past, she lamented the fact there had been no admission of wrongdoing or apology over the closures from the school system.

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Moving forward, she said, there needs to be a greater amount of transparency.

“We’ve got a lot of wounds to heal” as a county, she said.

The gifted and talented program, teacher salaries and grade configuration were among the issues brought up by parents in the Carroll County community Wednesday night during the first of a series of town hall meetings.

Nee said first and foremost, she thinks North Carroll High needs to be reopened.

She also spoke about giving Common Core a “serious look,” and said students aren’t testing any better because of it.

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“We’re not doing better in the long run,” she added.

Nee also said there are empty spaces in the schools, and CCPS should be looking creatively in terms of capacity. She gave examples of magnet schools, and working to move different programs at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center into high schools instead of spending $60 million on renovating and expanding the current center.

Andy Smith, a parent who has children in the North Carroll area, said over the years, it has felt like “Groundhog Day,” with study after study but no decision made.

He asked Superintendent Steve Lockard about what he planned to do in terms of the recommendations that came out of the Redistricting and School Closure Committee report. Specifically, Smith asked if Lockard planned to do anything different than what has been done in the past, and not kick the can down the road.

Lockard clarified that doing a feasibility study — one of the main recommendations he made based on the RSCC report — was doing something, and is a required part of any process to get state money for a potential East Middle School project.

“If we want to do any kind of renovation or construction for a building for East Middle, in order to be even eligible for state funds, we have to ask for a feasibility study,” Lockard said, later adding, “I feel like I need information to make a better informed decision moving forward.”

Tammi Ledley, the town administrator for Hampstead, also spoke during the meeting about North Carroll High.

“I think it was hastily made,” she said of the closure decision, adding, “I don’t feel like they looked at the big picture.”

While enrollment numbers were down, she said, that was following a recession. Now, the county is growing and the economy is better, she added.

While much of the meeting focused on the school closures and plans moving forward, concern over time spent testing and sitting in seats was also brought up.

Keiry Stanton, of Hampstead, said her family had been living abroad, and coming into an American school system, she’s noticed there are different focuses.

Despite the Board of Education moving forward this week with recommendations for a feasibility study to help find a solution to the East Middle School dilemma, some members of the school board and Board of County Commissioners continue to disagree about a path forward.

Stanton said there are changes that concern her in terms of how long students — especially young students — spend sitting still and testing.

There should be more movement for kids, and not just structured movements, she said. Studies show this is healthy for students and helps them learn, she said.

“We know this, but we’re not doing it in American schools,” Stanton added.

Both Lockard and Board of Education President Bob Lord agreed with much of what Stanton said.

Lockard said moving around is a natural part of growth and learning for young students, and his own son is a perfect example.

“I do think we need to look,” he said.

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