Two proposed plans to populate the five existing elementary schools with the newest facilityâ€”Barstow Elementary School (BAES)â€”due to be completed this fall, received mixed reviews from the public Jan. 30. The first of two planned public hearings was held at Calvert High School and drew a sizable crowd.
A decision on how to populate the schools will be made by the Calvert Board of Education (BOE) during the early spring.
There was no clear favorite among the gathering. A lionâ€™s share of the testimony was presented by residents of two Huntingtown subdivisionsâ€”Marley Run and Queensberry. Elementary age children residing in those neighborhoods currently attend Plum Point Elementary School (PPES).
Under Plan One, Marley Run students would be transferred to Huntingtown Elementary School (HES) and the schoolâ€™s enrollment estimate is 575.
Under Plan Two, children residing in the Queensberry subdivision would be transferred to Calvert Elementary School (CES) and the school enrollment estimate is 505.
It was clear that residents of both neighborhoods want their children to remain at PPES.
Randy Stevens of Queensbury was typical of most parents, stating he favored Plan One â€śfor safety reasons.â€ť Stevens, who identified himself as a law enforcement officer, cited the high number of collisions on Wilson Road over the past four year.
Most of the trek school buses would take from Queensberry to CES would be on Wilson Road.
Brad Land of Marley Run indicated he and his neighbors were concerned about having children from the subdivision riding a bus that would cross the treacherous Route 2/4-Cox Road intersection to get to-and-from HES. â€śPlan Two makes the most sense,â€ť said Land.
Residents of the Whispering Woods subdivision located off Route 2/4 south in Prince Frederick want whatever plan is selected to be tweaked so that their 40 elementary age children may remain at Mutual Elementary School (MES) instead of transferring to BAES.
â€śKeeping us in Mutual will allow for growth in other schools,â€ť said Carol Tisone of Whispering Woods. â€śOur community is 15 years old. Weâ€™ve invested a lot in the school and we want to continue that.â€ť
Tisone noted that buses exiting Whispering Woods to transport children to BAES will likely need to make a U-turn on Route 2/4. Currently, the Whispering Woods students have a seven-to-10 minute commute to MES. Tisone said the commute to BAES would be 20-to-25 minutes.
â€śIâ€™ve been through this before,â€ť said BOE member Eugene Karol, who served as Calvertâ€™s superintendent of schools for 13 years. â€śItâ€™s always painful.â€ť
Karol indicated that the BOE may indeed need to modify whichever plan is selected. â€śBoth groups have good points,â€ť he added.
Karol stated that while he understood parentsâ€™ worries about routes children would travel to new schools, â€śour buses have an excellent safety record.â€ť
â€śThe [bus] drivers know the roads,â€ť said Leon Langley, the director of transportation for Calvert County Public Schools. â€śThis is Calvert County. It has many back roads.â€ť
Langley added that bus drivers are also aware of the hazards posed by Route 2/4 and its many intersections.
Langley said late last week that he would be attending the next public hearing on redistricting, scheduled for Monday, Feb. 11 at Huntingtown High School, to listen to and speak with parents concerned about the altered bus routes either plan will yield.
That public hearing will begin at 6:30 p.m.
School board president Frank Parish told the audience at the Jan. 30 hearing that all public testimony will be weighed. Parish indicated the redistricting committee could possibly be called by the superintendent to â€śreconveneâ€ť to make changes to the plans.
The BOE president reminded the audience that â€śchanges will be made.â€ť
Construction of BAES has been underway since last summer. â€śThatâ€™s going to be a super school,â€ť said Karol. â€śNo matter what we do, the kids are going to get a great education.â€ťE-mail Marty Madden at firstname.lastname@example.org.