6 parents want to start a fifth grade at Elmer Wolfe Elementary


A Union Bridge mother wants to make one thing clear: Not everyone agrees with the six parents leading the push to start a fifth grade at Elmer Wolfe Elementary School so those children don't have to attend New Windsor Middle School.

Elmer Wolfe is the only school in the county that doesn't yet have a fifth grade. It never has had one, but it will in September 1995 when expansion and renovation begin.

The six parents appealing to the school board don't want to wait that long: Their children will be in fifth grade in the fall, and they maintain that they're too young to be plunged into a school with grades six through eight.

Parent Cynda Bertier doesn't agree with the six who are appealing to the school board. She said she thinks her fifth-grader got a better education at New Windsor Middle School than was possible at Elmer Wolfe, because of the access to teachers who specialize in various subject areas.

"They got a very good, very solid education," Ms. Bertier said of the fifth-graders. She said bullying by older children is the exception, not the rule.

A hearing on the appeal by the six parents will be scheduled, and open to the public, school officials said. Superintendent Brian Lockard has already denied their request, and the next step is the board.

This spring, Principal Mary Stong proposed a way to make room for a fifth grade by moving the preschool program to Runnymede Elementary.

She surveyed parents in the school, who said they would prefer keeping students at Elmer Wolfe through fifth grade.

But Ms. Bertier says no one has surveyed parents of the preschoolers, many of whom are not aware of the proposal, she guessed. Runnymede is between Westminster and Taneytown. Nearly all the 40 preschoolers registered for Elmer Wolfe live several miles away in Union Bridge and New Windsor, said Dorothy Mangle, director of Elementary Education.

Ms. Mangle said the displacement of preschoolers was the main reason she recommended that Dr. Lockard say no to a fifth grade at Elmer Wolfe.

She said she and everyone in the school system seemed to agree that putting the fifth grade with the rest of Elmer Wolfe is a good idea. But it wasn't worth moving the preschool to such a distant location, she said, especially since the fifth grade will be part of Elmer Wolfe anyway in a year.

In September 1995, the students in the existing New Windsor Middle School will move into a new building being constructed now. With the old building empty, Elmer Wolfe students will move in temporarily, and there will be room for a fifth grade.

Except for Elmer Wolfe, all elementary schools in Carroll now go up to fifth grade. In the past, others had gone only to fourth grade, before the steady building and replacement of schools. Elmer Wolfe is one of the last scheduled for expansion.

Ms. Mangle said about 60 percent of elementary schools nationwide are kindergarten through fifth grade, and about 30 percent go up to fourth grade. The remainder include any number of combinations, she said.

She said she has looked, but found no research that indicates fifth-graders are too young to be included in a middle school.

The widely held theory in education, based on Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget's research, is that children reach an advanced developmental stage at age 11, an age that is spread across both fourth- and fifth-graders, she said.

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