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Parents want new school to ease Abingdon crowding But county plans none, will redistrict instead


Parents of students at overcrowded Abingdon Elementary School say a new school should be built in their area, but the Harford County Board of Education last week approved a list of construction projects that includes no plans for new schools this year.

Redistricting for the Abingdon school as early as next school year will alleviate crowding there for a few years, Superintendent Ray R. Keech has said.

Construction and planned developments indicate that the area northwest of Bel Air and the Creswell area will need new elementary schools before other areas, the superintendent said.

But the rate of growth and crowding in those areas are not high enough to justify a new school to the state, which must approve plans and allocate money, Dr. Keech and board members said.

Those explanations did not satisfy such parents as Wayne Spencer, who has three children in kindergarten and grades one and four at Abingdon Elementary.

"Clearly, what I don't hear is a passion to meet the demands of the people here at Abingdon," he told school board members. "We are going to have an enrollment problem, and it needs to be addressed now."

While redistricting is inevitable, it is only a temporary solution that could bounce children from school to school every few years as the buildings around Abingdon fill up, parents said. Many students had to transfer when Abingdon Elementary was opened in 1992.

"Here we are three years later, we're about to be redistricted again," said Bruce McIntyre, president of the Abingdon PTA.

He and others want the board to consider redistricting several schools across the county to bring enrollments into balance.

Board members approved the list of construction projects on a unanimous voice vote. The list calls for more portable classrooms, renovation, roof replacements and other work that would cost about $22 million in state and county money.

In other business:

* The board transferred 24 acres at Reckord and Mountain roads to the county for a park. The board bought the land 27 years ago for an elementary school, but the area is outside the county's development envelope and does not need a new school now, Dr. Keech said.

* Board members approved a plan in which the superintendent and his staff will review the Board Policy Manual, a large document outlining rules and regulations. The entire manual has not been reviewed for 14 years. The plan calls for monthly updates and an annual review process.

* The assistant superintendent for administrative services presented the results of an in-house review of the facilities and construction departments that recommended combining the units and adding five administrators.

The review said the plan, developed by a committee of employees, administrators and union representatives, would save $65,000 a year -- the difference between the cost of the new administrative positions and energy savings. Representatives of the union for maintenance and custodial workers and some workers endorsed the plan because it does not call for the elimination of positions and does not bring in a private company to manage the departments.

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