Carroll County school officials told the Hampstead town council last night that they plan to use part of the old Hampstead Elementary School for a special education program for students with learning disabilities or serious emotional disturbances.
Vernon Smith, director of school support services, said five classrooms have been prepared in the newest part of the building to house the program. The program has been renting space at Springfield Hospital Center, but has lost its lease.
Dr. Harry Fogle, supervisor of special education, said 25 to 30 middle- and high-school students would participate in the Behavioral Education Support Team, or BEST, program beginning in the fall.
He said the federally mandated program provides a setting in which children who need small classes and counseling may get an education.
About 30 Hampstead residents turned out for the meeting. Several objected to the location of the BEST program in Hampstead.
"We pay your salaries, and yet you drop this in our back yard and think it's right? I don't," Harry Arnold told the school officials.
"I don't know who these kids are, or how long they're going to be there," said Michael J. Reilly. "I don't want Charles Hickey kids in my back yard," he said, referring to the state juvenile detention facility in Baltimore County.
"I think that's a gross exaggeration of the program," Mr. Smith said. He said it is not residential, and children are placed in it for educational reasons, not on court referrals.
"I think you have a very great misunderstanding," resident Lynn Wisner told others in the audience. "They [the children] really need this program."
Hampstead Police Chief Kenneth Russell said Sykesville, where the program has been located, has had no problems with BEST students.
"We have to have a program for the kids," said Dr. Fogle, "and that's where it's going to be located."
Councilwoman Jacqueline Hyatt said it would have been nice if the council had been contacted before plans became final.