Parents again challenge Frederick school rezoning

Posted: November 8, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — The panel studying the potential rezoning of some Frederick County elementary school attendance zones has reviewed data on existing student rolls and projected housing growth.

But some people on Thursday evening questioned whether the emphasis is in the right place.

“Taking my granddaughter on a 45-minute bus ride when she can see the school she should be going to from home is not in the best interest of the child,” Elaine Garrett, who indicated that she has a doctorate in early childhood education, said during a parent informational meeting at Evendale Elementary School.

“We’re talking numbers here, not children,” she continued. “You need to make the decision based on what is best for children.”

About 50 adults associated with elementary school students turned out Thursday night for the second meeting about the proposed rezoning that would start next fall. However, rising fifth-graders would be allowed to finish at the school they currently attend if their parents provide transportation.

A public hearing on the proposed rezoning is scheduled for Dec. 17, with a School Board vote expected in January.

Schools Superintendent David Sovine told the crowd that the changes are being considered to accommodate full-day kindergarten that begins in the 2014-15 school year and allow for expected growth until the division’s 12th elementary school opens in five to seven years.

“We could have some schools that are overcrowded,” Sovine said, “and the alternative at that point is trailers.”

An Elementary School Rezoning Committee comprised of more than 40 people, including more than 20 parents, has recommended an option that calls for a total of 247 students to be transferred into a different school zone. The alternative would shift 301 students.

The preferred option calls for:

44 current students to move to Gainesboro from Apple Pie Ridge.

25 current students to move to Indian Hollow from Apple Pie Ridge.

131 current students to move to Evendale from Greenwood Mill.

47 current students to move to Orchard View from Armel.

The other plan under consideration would make an additional change, shifting 63 current students to Apple Pie Ridge from Redbud Run.

Parents and grandparents who spoke at the meeting said that bussing students as long as 45 minutes from their homes raises safety and lifestyle issues, that the proposed changes would limit their ability to attend school functions, and that established friendships would be torn apart. Pleas also were made regarding children with special needs who have trouble adapting to new people and situations.

Brian Johnson said he has two children at Greenwood Mill Elementary, one with Type 1 diabetes and one with indicators that he may develop it. School staff members had to be “trained” to deal with their medical needs, and he said he doesn’t want to have to go through that process again.

Erica Farris said her Armel student would pass three elementary schools to get to Orchard View if either rezoning is approved and asked that the plans be reconsidered.

Not every speaker focused entirely on the proposed school-zone changes. Bill Hummer noted that rezonings have been fairly frequent in Frederick County and asked that plans be made to limit them in the future.

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com