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Elementary pupils face school shift next year One school crowded, four others enroll fewer than capacity


Some Abingdon Elementary School students could be attending other, less-crowded elementary schools in that area next school year if a plan for redistricting suggested by the superintendent moves forward.

Abingdon Elementary, 3 years old, is more than 200 students over capacity, and seven portable classrooms sit on soccer fields behind the school to house the overflow.

If redistricting is approved, students probably will attend William Paca/Old Post Road, Edgewood, Emmorton or William S. James elementary schools, said Donald R. Morrison, spokesman for the school system.

All four schools started the school year under capacity, according to unofficial enrollment statistics provided by the school system.

Although the Board of Education has not appointed a committee of system administrators and citizens -- the first step in redistricting -- Superintendent Ray R. Keech said last week that redistricting needs to be done in time for the next school year.

Parents would go along with redistricting grudgingly, said Bruce McIntyre, president of Abingdon's PTA.

Ideally, the county would build a school for the extra students expected to move into the many residential developments in the Route 924 corridor, he said.

"The growth is phenomenal down in our neck of the corridor," Mr. McIntyre said.

The Creswell area along Route 543 will need a new elementary school before the Abingdon area, school system officials say.

That leaves redistricting for Abingdon.

"We're using every square inch of the building," said Abingdon Elementary Principal J. Lawrence Mills. The use of portable classrooms has kept class sizes normal,he said.

In redistricting, the county should ensure that children don't have to change schools several times as other schools in the area gradually fill, Mr. McIntyre said.

Parents also are concerned about redistricting that would take children away from longtime classmates as they move to middle and high school, he said.

But redistricting and splitting up elementary school students as they move on to secondary schools sometimes is necessary, Mr. Morrison said.

"That is just a function of living in an area that is a rapid growth area," he said.

An elementary school in the Route 924 corridor was on the school system's construction priority list as recently as July.

But "we don't have the numbers in that area to justify to the state building another school," Mr. Morrison said.

Instead, the superintendent wants to build a new elementary school in the area west of Bel Air and in the Creswell area along Route 543 in time to open in 1998.

"It seems clear that both of them will be very much needed," Dr. Keech said.

He said he will ask the county for $500,000 to plan each school this year. Planned developments west of Bel Air and in the Creswell area make those schools more urgent, he said.

Each school would have a capacity of 750 students, Dr. Keech said. That is more capacity than any current elementary school building.

William Paca/Old Post Road and Youth's Benefit elementary schools each have two buildings, and therefore house more students.

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