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Parents express fear, anger at last-minute school transfers

THE BALTIMORE SUN

It was an angry crowd, fearful and confused, that faced off with Baltimore county school officials last night as administrators tried to explain the logistics of moving students from Rosedale Center to Cockeysville Middle School.

Days earlier, county school officials had announced that the move would be part of a series of steps designed to accommodate pupils from the burned-out Elmwood Elementary School.

Elmwood pupils would be housed at Rosedale, while that school's population - middle and high school students removed from regular classrooms because of behavioral problems - would be separate from other students at Cockeysville.

During last night's tense, nearly two-hour meeting with parents at the middle school, officials tried to convince parents that the Rosewood students are not violent felons, merely teen-agers who have made bad choices.

The parents weren't convinced.

"We're thinking about Columbine," said Yvonne McKenzie, whose son is going into seventh grade at Cockeysville Middle. "I don't see where anyone can guarantee me ... that the chance of violence is not going to increase at all."

School officials had planned to meet with parents next week, but a flood of phone calls made them decide to hold last night's event, which drew about 300 people.

Rosedale's approximately 100 students will become something of a separate school housed inside Cockeysville Middle School, school administrators said. They won't interact with the middle schoolers, they won't eat with them and they will be confined to an eight-classroom space with their own bathrooms and entrance. They will also be heavily supervised, the administrators said.

The middle school itself "will be committed to maintaining that degree of normalcy," said Cockeysville Principal Philip W. Taylor.

The move was a necessary one, school officials told parents. When administrators looked at which options would allow them to open school for all children at the same time, the possibilities were limited because of the recent fire, said Donald Krempel, the associate superintendent for physical facilities.

Elmwood was seriously damaged in a fire Aug. 22; school officials say they'll be able to move its pupils back as of the first of the year.

Rob Bacharach, a clinical social worker with a daughter at Cockeysville Middle, told parents they were overreacting. The children sent to Rosedale are not "high risk" or "violent," he said.

"I think it's going to work out. It's a temporary situation," he said to applause. "I think we've overexaggerated and gotten ourselves wound up."

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