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Carroll County Public Schools possible closure appeals hearing approaching

The saga around whether three Carroll County Public Schools will close gets one step closer to a decision this week.

The Maryland State Department of Education is scheduled to hear appeals in regard to the possible impending closures at 9 a.m. Tuesday, June 28, according to William Reinhard, a MSDE spokesman. It's unclear how long it will take for a ruling to be made.

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The battle around school closures has been going on since the Carroll County Board of Education voted in December to close three schools at the end of the current school year: North Carroll High, New Windsor Middle and Charles Carroll Elementary. The board has said there is declining enrollment systemwide throughout the county.

Community members fired back in the form of appeals in January, challenging the legality and necessity of the closures.

Don Garmer, an alumnus of North Carroll High School, is one of those who has filed an appeal. Going into Tuesday's hearing, he's feeling confident, he said.

They have a feeling that they can win, Garmer, of Westminster said, so long as things aren't already a "done deal." It's his hope things won't just be rubber stamped, he added.

"If they are not just under the impression that they need to go along to keep the precedent going … our information wins," Garmer said.

A total of five appeals were filed. Three appeals are pro se, or on behalf of themselves without legal representation. Attorney Bill Sinclair of Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin and White in Baltimore has been representing the New Windsor Middle appellants since March.

Another appeal was filed by Baltimore attorney Donald J. Walsh and Manchester attorney Dawn Nee on behalf of North Carroll High School students, the mayors of Hampstead and Manchester, the North Carroll Recreation Council, and two Hampstead businesses.

In May, an administrative law judge recommended motions made by the Carroll school system for summary affirmance in the cases of all three schools be granted, which would allow the closures to stand. Appellants responded and filed exceptions, sending the process to the state board.

It's been a long road for the community members fighting to keep the schools open.

Tara Battaglia, an advocate for keeping Charles Carroll Elementary open, is feeling nervous as the date approaches, but she's hopeful the state board will see the frustration of the community and listen to what they have to say.

"We can just only hope that at some point, the [Carroll] Board of Education is held accountable for the things that they've done," Battaglia said.

From the start, she added, she's felt like they've had a good shot.

Garmer has hope too.

"If the state board is willing to look at the evidence," he said. "We think we have a pretty good chance."

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The hearing is set for 9 a.m. Tuesday, June 28, at the Nancy S. Grasmick State Education Building, at 200 W. Baltimore St. in Baltimore. It will be open to the public.

410-857-7862

Twitter.com/EmilyChappell13

This article has been updated to reflect the number of appeals being represented by attorneys.

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