Action on the fate of the last one-room schoolhouse in Maryland was deferred last night until next month so that the Somerset County school board can hold additional public hearings.
The board deferred its decision until after Aug. 8, when public hearings will be held at Tylerton Elementary, the one-room schoolhouse on Smith Island, and at Ewell Elementary, which will be affected by any action on Tylerton.
The board is considering closing Tylerton Elementary -- a kindergarten through sixth-grade school -- because it cannot justify keeping the school open for only a handful of students next year.
But residents of Tylerton, fearing that losing the school will mean the end of their town, where only two babies have been born in the past decade, pleaded to keep it open.
Last night, the board seemed to be leaning toward adopting a proposal by school Superintendent James G. Horn that would make Tylerton kindergarten through fifth grade and keep it open for two boys -- one a second-grader, the other a fourth-grader.
A third student, who will enter the sixth grade in September, will be sent to Woodson Middle School in Crisfield with three who will enter the seventh grade, which means they will have to take a 20-mile round trip each day by boat.
Students from Tylerton who are already in the seventh and eighth grades attend Woodson Middle.
If Mr. Horn's proposal is approved, April Tyler, the teacher in charge at Tylerton Elementary, will be given the option of taking a position at Woodson Middle. Evelyn Tyler, the instructional assistant who has taught at Tylerton Elementary since it was built 22 years ago, will teach the two remaining boys and a certified teacher will visit twice a week. The Tylers are not related.
The board's decision also will affect about six students in the sixth and seventh grades at Ewell Elementary, who will also be transferred to Woodson Middle.
"I believe the board will vote to keep Tylerton Elementary School open, pre-K to fifth grade," said Leo Lawson, director of public relations for Somerset County public schools.
The board estimates that by transferring the students from the two elementary schools to Woodson, it can achieve the same $48,000 savings it would have if Tylerton Elementary were closed.
If Tylerton Elementary is closed, the second-grader and the fourth-grader will be transferred to Ewell Elementary, which will involve a short boat trip.
"The factors involving the safety of transporting younger children a half-mile to Ewell . . . that was one thing paramount in the board's mind" in deferring action on Tylerton Elementary last night, Mr. Lawson said.
Dwight Marshall's 12-year-old daughter Maria is one of the students who will be going into the seventh grade at Woodson Middle.
"I don't feel very good about it," the waterman said. "It's awfully young to be crossing Tangier Sound in a boat in the wintertime."