Parents push to make elementary a K-8 school Pledges made to fund Woodbridge classroom


Woodbridge Valley parents want their children kept in Woodbridge Elementary School through eighth grade. Baltimore County educators say the building doesn't have enough space.

But the parents aren't taking "no" for an answer. They're proposing to pay for an extra classroom themselves -- and in just two weeks of fund raising they have pledges for $22,000 of the $32,000 they believe it would cost to add a portable classroom in the fall.

"If the only problem was having the money to give our school more space, we thought it was a natural that we could raise the money ourselves," said Sherman Reed, the parent of two Woodbridge children and head of the effort to convert the elementary to a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school.

But school officials say the parents' proposal to pay for a portable classroom -- an apparent first for Baltimore County -- faces many more hurdles than just cost, including a need for widespread renovations.

Officials say they're willing to continue working with parents but are not optimistic about adding a seventh grade by fall.

While many parent groups have raised thousands of dollars for computers and playground equipment, "this really enters uncharted waters for us," said schools spokesman Donald I. Mohler.

The Woodbridge parents outlined their fund-raising plans to the Baltimore County school board last night during a hearing on proposed school redistricting.

The proposed boundary line changes -- which have been discussed at a series of meetings for almost three months -- were expected to draw relatively little opposition last night. School officials already had modified their original proposals to respond to concerns from the affected communities.

The redistricting changes include new boundaries for Sparks Elementary School as well as plans to relieve some middle school overcrowding in the western and northwestern areas of the county. The main protests last night were from parents of students at Old Court Middle School who do not want students transferred to their school. The school board will vote June 16.

One redistricting proposal is aimed at the overcrowded Southwest Academy -- also the neighborhood middle school for Woodbridge Elementary.

"We want to help Southwest Academy by making our school K-8," said Fran Nickey, who has a fourth-grader at Woodbridge and seventh-grader at Southwest Academy. "When we put out the call to raise money for a portable classroom, people responded very quickly."

Woodbridge parents have been trying to turn their elementary into a K-8 school, saying it would create a more intimate school for their children while relieving Southwest Academy.

In spring 1997, school officials allowed Woodbridge to add a sixth grade for the 1997-1998 school year. But this spring, they rejected adding seventh grade for 1998-1999, saying Woodbridge does not have enough classroom space and other construction projects were of higher priority.

Southwest Area Superintendent Donna L. Smither said that even if the parents raise enough money to pay for the rental and installation of a portable classroom, "there are a number of logistical issues that need to be resolved."

For example, middle school students might need upgraded science laboratories, an expanded cafeteria and larger fields, Smither said. The school system's chief engineer will evaluate how much that would cost.

Parents are sure they'll be able to secure pledges for the entire $32,000 to pay for the portable classroom, particularly if the school board gives them any indication of hope. They also say parents are willing to volunteer to help make renovations.

School board members might take up the Woodbridge proposal when they vote on boundary line changes.

Pub Date: 6/03/98

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