For the first time, Elmer Wolfe Elementary School in Union Bridge will have a fifth grade in September.
The county Board of Education voted last night to overturn recommendations to the contrary by its top administrator.
The 4-1 decision by the Carroll school board forces the administration to find a place for the preschool program at Elmer Wolfe, to make room for the fifth grade, and to notify parents of affected 4-year-olds.
Board members said they are committed to elementary schools that go up to fifth grade and an "ancillary" program such as preschool should not displace students in kindergarten through grade five.
Superintendent Brian Lockard said the 40 preschoolers, most from Union Bridge, will ride a bus to either Runnymede Elementary in Westminster or to portable classrooms at New Windsor Middle School.
Six parents of children who will be in fifth grade had appealed to the board after Dr. Lockard denied their request to allow the 92 fifth-graders to stay at Elmer Wolfe, instead of going a year early to New Windsor Middle.
By last September, Elmer Wolfe had become the only elementary that did not have a fifth grade. Its students have always gone to New Windsor Middle.
Elmer Wolfe had been scheduled to get a fifth grade as it is renovated and expanded.
Dr. Lockard said he never disagreed that the fifth-graders belong at Elmer Wolfe, but said he had to weigh that against the disruption of the preschool and the fact that Elmer Wolfe was set to have a fifth grade as soon as September 1995.
After the vote last night, a cheer erupted from parents Debbie Doxzon, Vickie Mastalerz, Frank Mastalerz, Suzanne Stultz and Terri Surdyka. Another parent who had signed the original appeal was unable to attend the hearing because of his job, Ms. Doxzon said.
"I won't say I'm surprised," said Ms. Doxzon. "We thought logic should win out. But this is our third meeting. We weren't sure logic would win out."
Before the vote, the parents presented the board with several options they would be willing to accept, including busing their fifth-graders to another elementary school.
The parents said their children were too young to be mingled with children in grades six through eight.
The school board heard testimony in public but went behind closed doors for about 20 minutes to deliberate. They emerged to take a vote, with no discussion. Board President John D. Myers voted not to put the fifth grade at Elmer Wolfe.
Board member C. Scott Stone said after the testimony that he disagreed with letting the "ancillary" preschool program displace the regular students.
Administrators said it could cost about $60,000 more to transport preschool students to Runnymede or New Windsor Middle.