Board of Carroll County Commissioners Open Session on September 13, 2018.
The long-anticipated release of the Redistricting and School Closure Committee’s report, which included five possible planning options, left Carroll’s Board of Commissioners — the primary funding agent for Carroll County Public Schools — expressing dismay and anger.
“The redistricting and closure committee turned out to be neither,” Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, who also sits on the school board as a nonvoting ex-officio member, said during the Thursday, Sept. 13, commissioners meeting.
Howard, echoing some of the comments he’d made the night before at the school board meeting, said while he thinks the committee worked hard, the parameters were too broad for any substantial or new recommendations to come forward.
There is outcry for the replacement or modernization of East Middle School in Westminster, he said, but no way forward to do so under financial constraints.
Despite the committee’s name, the Redistricting and School Closure Committee concluded that while there is a “pressing need to find efficiencies,” neither comprehensive redistricting nor school closures are “warranted” at this time.
Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, went further in his frustrations, and said that years ago, when CCPS was looking at schools to close, commissioners sent a unanimous letter listing priorities for schools to be selected that had as the top priority schools at the end of their economic life.
“They ignored it,” Rothschild said.
Instead, he added, CCPS closed a “perfectly good middle school in New Windsor” and chose to keep open “a piece of junk,” in reference to East Middle.
Rothschild said the commissioners need to send a message to the school board.
“No, we’re not doing it. We’re not going to fund the replacement of East Middle,” Rothschild said, raising his voice and pounding his fist on the table. “So go and do your redistricting, like you’re supposed to do, and stop passing the buck back to the taxpayers because you don’t want to make the tough political decisions.
“Redistrict, redistrict, redistrict, because we’re not going to fund the replacement of that school.”
The three main takeaways, according to the executive summary of the RSCC report, are that the condition of East Middle School is an “unavoidable driver of all planning concerns”; there are currently no “extreme inequities” in physical condition or utilization in CCPS facilities to suggest comprehensive redistricting is needed; and at this time, no school has been assessed to be “harmful or dangerous to its occupants,” and while closure could help financially in terms of reduction of utilities and maintenance, there would be significant detriment.
The top recommendation that came out of the report is to build a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school to replace East Middle and William Winchester Elementary, also in Westminster.
The school board had opposite reactions to the report the night before, instead praising the committee’s work. The school board asked for time to digest the information, and Superintendent Steven Lockard said his goal is to come back with a possible recommendation to the Board of Education in October.
All of the commissioners expressed frustration at Friday’s meeting, though some were more subdued. Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, and a former CCPS teacher, said Carroll County is having “tough economic times.”