Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Community not satisfied with boundary options

PTAs find problems with all proposals for Clarksburg elementary No. 8

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Clarksburg parents told school officials last week the last four boundary options proposed for Clarksburg elementary school No. 8 are no better than the first five options the school system introduced in March.

‘‘There is no one option that all of the community is supporting,” Donna Pfeiffer, parent co-coordinator of the Clarksburg Cluster, said Tuesday. ‘‘There is no one easy answer.”

A boundary advisory committee in February asked the school system to draw boundaries that would avoid moving students that were moved when Little Bennett Elementary School opened two years ago, to take into account changes that would be needed when future schools open and to avoid the creation of geographic islands.

The advisory committee includes parents representing the three area elementary schools — Clarksburg, Cedar Grove and Little Bennett — that will send students to the new school.

After consulting with their schools, the representatives of the committee said in April that the school system failed to meet the objectives in the first set of options.

Weeks later, the school system presented four more options that were variations of the first two options, which drew the most support from parents, school officials said. The new proposals were designed to limit the number of isolated pockets of students and keep the Hurley Ridge communities together.

Representatives took the new options back to their PTAs for comments. Thursday’s meeting focused on the final four options for the school.

Crystal Crigger, Clarksburg Elementary School PTA president, said the population at her school would be too small under some of the four new options.

‘‘The second round decimates Clarksburg Elementary,” Katherine Schwartz of Germantown, Clarksburg Elementary School’s advisory committee member, said.

The second round of options was not acceptable, she said after the meeting, adding she did not see one good boundary option among them.

Clarksburg Elementary representatives said their parents think that although six of the options take their walking concerns into consideration, those options create a student body that would be too small for their school.

The Cedar Grove community said three of the four options improve the demographics in the cluster, but option six ruins the demographics at Clarksburg Elementary, option seven creates a peninsula, and both options eight and nine left the population at Cedar Grove too small.

‘‘One thing I respect is the way that the three elementary schools are trying to look out for each other,” Chris McDermott, Little Bennett PTA president, said. ‘‘That was one thing that I was really pleasantly surprised by. The three schools care about this community and each other’s success.”

Both the Clarksburg and Cedar Grove advisory boards members think the first two options are the best. However, the Little Bennett representative said her community could not come to an agreement on which options they endorsed.

‘‘There is understanding in our school that there are a lot of feelings and different perspectives to this,” McDermott said. ‘‘We can’t possibly all have the same opinion. We can only do our best to represent the major concerns that we have.”

Little Bennett advisory board representatives said parents are unhappy with the final four options. They think options six and eight continue to create an island and option seven causes too many students to change schools for a second time. They are disappointed in option nine because enrollment at Clarksburg Elementary would be high until 2014.

‘‘The community is doing a good job,” Bruce Crispell, director of long-range planning for Montgomery County Public Schools, said. ‘‘They have wrestled with the pros and cons of the nine options. It is not easy to weigh nine options.”

Parents can weigh in on the options at a public meeting May 21 at 7 p.m. in the Rocky Hill Middle School cafeteria.

The school board will establish boundaries for the new Clarksburg elementary school in November. The school is expected to open in August 2009. It will sit on 10 acres of land on Royal Crown Drive in Germantown’s Milestone community.