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Disposal of items at schools inflames community angry over school closures

Items are being thrown out at New Windsor Middle, which is slated to close.
Items are being thrown out at New Windsor Middle, which is slated to close. (HANDOUT)

Anger regarding the closure of three Carroll County schools, and what some are calling wastefulness, culminated in an altercation Thursday at New Windsor Middle.

Sheriff Jim DeWees said Thursday a deputy was sent to the school for an altercation between a custodian and a community member who was angry about items from the school being thrown out. He said his office is working to determine whether anything criminal took place.

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Frustration over the closure of the three schools remains even after the Maryland State Board of Education voted this week to uphold the local board's original ruling.

In December, Carroll's Board of Education voted 4-1 to approve Superintendent Stephen Guthrie's recommendation to close North Carroll High, New Windsor Middle and Charles Carroll Elementary at the end of the 2015-2016 school year. Carroll school officials have said the decision was the result of declining enrollment systemwide and that the closures would save more than $5 million a year.

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Thursday continued the discussion over the closures, and possible waste from throwing out items community members believe are still in good condition.

Ed Smith, a councilman for New Windsor, is one of those people.

Smith went to New Windsor Middle on Thursday, and said he was in an altercation with a custodian while there. Smith said the custodian wouldn't let him leave after seeing him take pictures of items in the dumpster.

What Smith saw there — a dumpster filled with items like sports equipment and art supplies in the packaging — made him angry, he said.

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"On the surface, to me, it is wasteful," he said.

He's not sure if it's different from when schools purge items at the end of every year, but Smith said he saw things in the dumpster that appeared new. Smith said he saw track hurdles that looked to be in good condition sitting in the trash.

The school board continues to say it has to close schools because of funding, Smith said.

"And yet, you have this massive amount of stuff that's being thrown away," he added.

Ray Prokop, director of facilities for Carroll County Public Schools, said items get thrown out at the end of every year, at every school.

He couldn't speak to what exactly had been thrown out at the three schools set to close but said officials have been working for months to organize and take stock of what items would be moved and where they would go.

The schools have spent almost the last two weeks moving items designated to be needed before the start of the new year, he added.

"Those things were taken and moved and are still being moved," Prokop said.

They've inventoried and assessed items. Anything that's left behind will be taken to charity or looked at by the county, he said.

Any items that wound up in the dumpster, Prokop said, were designated as something not usable. School staff and curriculum supervisors have been the ones doing inventory, he added.

Regarding the public going on to school property, he said it's a liability and is dangerous for people to be digging around in the dumpsters. School grounds aren't public property, he said, and if there's no reason for someone to be there, then the school is allowed to make them leave.

Nevertheless, some members of the public remain angry.

"There's just a whole lot of lack of, at the very least, common sense, and at the very worst, just absolute corruption," Smith said.

410-857-7862

Twitter.com/EmilyChappell13

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