Parents urge board not to move pupils


Nearly 200 parents from South Carroll and Mount Airy attended a redistricting hearing last night, imploring the Carroll County Board of Education to leave their elementary-school-age children in their current schools rather than move them to less-crowded buildings.

Many at the meeting at Century High School in Eldersburg spoke about the disruption in transferring children from a school where they have friends and routines to a place where they don't know teachers, guidance counselors, or even cafeteria line workers.

"You're just shifting kids from one area to another and not solving the problem," said Lisa Martin, complaining about the second redistricting proposal in two years. "As parents we have to love and protect our kids and create a stable environment for them. You are not helping us create that stable environment."

Carroll administrators recommended temporarily moving 121 Mount Airy Elementary pupils - this year's fourth-grade class - to Mount Airy Middle School and using portable classrooms at the school. They also have proposed shifting 134 pupils from Linton Springs Elementary to Winfield Elementary and moving 99 Eldersburg Elementary pupils to Freedom Elementary.

The changes would balance enrollments at crowded elementary schools in South Carroll and Mount Airy until a second school can be built in Mount Airy. The new school, which has not received state approval or funding, is scheduled to open in 2004.

But parents questioned the redistricting because pupils would have to be shifted again in two years when the new school opens.

Michelle Flesher likened the disruption to that experienced by adults who change jobs several times - except, she said, career changes often are made by choice.

"It's not easy for an adult to adjust and you're just moving them like pingpong balls, hither tither," said Flesher, whose second-grade son would be moved from Linton Springs to Winfield under the proposal.

"How do you tell elementary school kids how they build a foundation when you're pinging and ponging them all over the county?"

The school district underwent a redistricting process in March 2000, redrawing school attendance boundaries that affected 3,170 children during three years. But with housing developments continuing to sprout in the southern part of the county, school officials decided that the elementary school attendance borders needed to be redrafted.

Swollen class sizes are perhaps most pressing at Mount Airy Elementary, where 738 pupils attend classes in a school built for 666. The building is projected to have 1,018 pupils - 352 more than its capacity - by 2004.

Although several parents worried that putting fifth-graders on a middle school campus would force 10- and 11-year-olds to grow up too quickly, others praised the administrators for making the best of a bad situation.

"While it's not ideal, it's what we've asked for all along," said Ann Kern, whose third-grade daughter attends Mount Airy and whose 5-year-old son will start kindergarten there in August. "We've asked not to be redistricted. We've asked to be kept in portables until the new school is built and we just wanted to say thanks."

Comments from last night's meeting will be transcribed and given to the five-member school board, which is expected to vote on the proposal at its March meeting. Maps and explanations of proposed changes are available at the school system's Web site at tation/redistrict.htm.

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