Elementary kids move next door

The Baltimore Sun

Come fall, fourth-graders at Rodgers Forge Elementary will report to the crowded Towson-area school each morning before heading next door to Dumbarton Middle School.

But they won't be going to their new classrooms on foot. Students who both walk and ride to the elementary will make the trip of about one-fifth of a mile to Dumbarton by shuttle bus.

The ride should be a quick one - about two minutes down Dumbarton Road, where both schools sit, separated by a playing field. In the afternoon, shuttles will return the children to Rodgers Forge.

Susan L. Deise, principal of Rodgers Forge, said safety is one of the primary reasons for the plan, as school officials contemplated how best to get more than 120 children down a busy street.

"We need to have the shuttle to protect all of the things that we have in place at Rodgers Forge," Deise said, such as the schedule, before- and after-school clubs and child care, among other things. Using shuttles helps maximize instruction time, she added.

Having all students begin and end their day at Rodgers Forge also reinforces that the fourth-graders are part of the school community, she said.

"If we begin and end our day [together], there is still that sense of unity," Deise said. Their return at the day's end will also give them time for recess and exchanging library books, she said. And while walking might be nice in the spring, winter and inclement weather is not ideal for such exercise, she said.

Towson-area parents received letters this month notifying them that third-graders from overcrowded Rodgers Forge will be moving to Dumbarton for their fourth-grade year. Deise has also provided a detailed Q&A; on the move, with more specific information.

"We have simply run out of enough space to accommodate additional classrooms," she wrote in her letter to school families. Moving fourth grade to Dumbarton is part of a continuing effort to handle the school's climbing enrollment, the letter stated.

The move is a temporary measure until the new Towson elementary school is built, Dumbarton Principal Nancy B. Fink explained in her letter to middle school families. The new elementary is expected to open in August 2010.

No additional cost is anticipated for the shuttles, said Kara E.B. Calder, schools spokeswoman. The morning buses that bring the children in will likely remain to take the fourth-graders to Dumbarton, she said.

Rodgers Forge had 709 students as of Sept. 30 and was nearly 80 percent over its capacity, according to the school system's latest enrollment report. That figure has climbed to 714, and counting, Deise said in a recent interview. Projections for next year indicate as many as 765 students, she said.

Meetings for parents and residents are scheduled for 7 p.m. today at Rodgers Forge and Feb. 2 at Dumbarton.

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