Parents make big push for Westminster school; Group turns out 300 people at commissioners' meeting


It's still unclear whether the people fighting for a new high school in Westminster will win their battle. What is clear is that they deserve an A for effort.

At a presentation last night before the Board of County Commissioners, they had videos, color charts on the overhead projector, startling statistics -- and about 300 parents cheering them on.

After the 120 chairs in a meeting room at the County Office Building were taken, parents sat on the floor, leaned against walls and trickled into the hallways. They heard members of a newly formed group, Citizens for Schools, tell the commissioners why they need a new school and why it can't wait.

"Educational standards have changed over the years -- better equipment, more children with special needs and the burgeoning student population," said Vicki Anzmann, co-chair of the group. "The bottom line is teachers and students need more space."

The planning commission recommended in December that construction of the high school be delayed two years to 2004. The commission said school officials had not provided up-to-date enrollment projections, and the outlook did not support arguments for another school at this time.

Westminster High was built to accommodate 2,000 students. It has 2,350 students this year and the now-available updated figures project enrollment to rise to about 2,700 by 2004.

Westminster senior Stephanie McFeeley, president of the 250-member Carroll County Student Government Association, attended the meeting on behalf of her sister Megan, a fourth-grader.

Stephanie said the overcrowding means she can't get classes she needs, and she has to push and shove through the hallways. Because most teachers don't have their own rooms it's difficult to find an instructor to discuss homework or get extra help, she said.

"They want us to participate in class and be involved," she said before the meeting, "and that's hard to do with more than 30 students in a class. You can't ask as many questions or get into discussions as much."

Principal Sherri-Le W. Bream told the commissioners that studies show the optimal enrollment for a high school is 1,200.

"School size strongly affects the climate within the school," she said. "Developing a feeling of community ensures the inclusion of all students, promotes high student morale and creates a safe environment for learning."

Many of the facts and figures presented were aimed at newly elected Commissioner Robin Frazier, who graduated from Westminster High School in 1978.

"There were 2,300 people in the school then," she said before the meeting. "It was wonderful."

She said she wasn't sure how she would vote on the issue and said other things, such as the budget and redistricting, would have to be considered.

In a videotape presentation, Beth Tevis, who teaches education at Western Maryland College, said one cannot only compare enrollment numbers from 1978 and today. The staff has increased from 103 to 138; study hall is no longer in the cafeteria or auditorium; teaching materials include computers and computer labs; and more after-school programs are offered.

The commissioners are expected to take a final vote on the school in May.

Pub Date: 2/03/99

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