Dundalk to School Board: Keep Eastwood Open

The Baltimore County Board of Education hosted a public hearing Tuesday to allow residents to weigh in on the proposed closure of Eastwood Elementary Magnet School.

The crowd at Tuesday night's public hearing to discuss the proposed closure of Eastwood Elementary Magnet School was more quiet than those of but residents were no less passionate about the message they delivered to the Baltimore County Board of Education.

"Keep Eastwood open" came across loud and clear from the majority of the nearly 30 speakers who signed up to address the board at the Dundalk High School gathering.

With rare exception, the speakers were passionate and emotional about keeping the small, intimate, close-knit neighborhood school open, and the few people who spoke in favor of closing Eastwood and merging it with Norwood Elementary and Holabird Middle schools were school system employees.

Linda Gossman, a Gray Manor resident who witnessed the closure of her neighborhood's elementary school some years ago, implored the school board to keep Eastwood open.

"An elementary school is a vital part of every community," Gossman said in her testimony. "It brings a community together, it brings parents and children together, it brings grandparents together."

Gossman believes the need to close a school and reuse the property for another purpose is because elected leaders "haven't used tax dollars well."

"Things get tough, and we look at what we can get rid of," Gossman said.

One Norwood Elementary School teacher said that, "with all due respect to parents, (teachers) have been educated in a traditional way, and here is what you need to know."

She told the audience that the school system's proposal "is the absolute best thing for our children."

The proposed pre-k to eighth-grade science, technology, engineering and math academy is the future of the community's children and will fulfill them socially and academically, the teacher said.

Norwood fourth-grade teacher Dawn Peake said that teachers were first concerned about their jobs and where they would work next year, but now, "Our fears are at ease."

In recognizing the comments made by many Eastwood parents that their small school is a family that looks out for one another, Peake said the newly merged school community would be three times stronger.

"As we embark on this exciting adventure, we're all in this together," she said.

One speaker said that school system officials are quick to point out that Eastwood students have "great opportunities" ahead of them, but he hasn't been able to get anyone to explain exactly what those opportunities are.

"Eastwood is being penalized for the sake of an over-crowded school and an underutilized school," he said, speaking of Norwood and Holabird, respectively.

Eastwood, the school being recommended for closure, is operating just about at capacity, with an enrollment of 191 students in a building rated to handle 197 students.

Norwood is about 90 students over capacity, and Holabird is nearly 400 students beneath capacity.

Speaker after speaker told school board members of their , the suddenness of the decision and the perception of that decision being made behind closed doors.

Many parents say the academy might end up being a good idea, but they are concerned the plan is being rushed through in too short a period of time, potentially setting the program up for failure.

And in the mean time, they said, the students who were experimented upon will not get a "do-over."

Parent Ericka Sapp said she is tired of students being used as guinea pigs at the whim of the school system.

She told school board members to "suck it up, make it work and quit wasting money."

Sapp wondered aloud why County Executive Kevin Kamenetz appears to have so much say in school system decisions, and why no other options were considered.

She too questioned the integrity of the process so far, and said such a major decision should involve a process in which officials "assess, develop, plan, implement and evaluate."

"It's not safe to use our kids as guinea pigs," she said.

Laura Frasca, the parent of an Eastwood student and PTA member, said she has one student in the school now and another looking forward to entering kindergarten in the fall.

"She's been looking forward to attending Eastwood for two years," Frasca said. "Closing Eastwood will destroy the essence of our program; why not model our school instead?"

She suggested creating the pre-k to eighth-grade STEM academy by merging Norwood and Holabird. Such a move would take care of the over-enrolled Norwood and under-enrolled Holabird while leaving the integrity of the Eastwood program in tact.

The smallness and intimacy of Eastwood is one of the reasons the program works so well, she believes.

"You cannot super-size us like a value meal at McDonald's," Frasca said.

Parents are also not happy with the possibility of third- and fourth-graders interacting with middle schoolers.

Ann Ritchie, a grandparent and retired teacher, reminded board members that, when school system officials wanted to remove sixth-graders from elementary school and create the middle school model that consisted of grades six, seven and eight (as opposed to seven, eight and nine of the old junior high school model), the rationale was based upon sixth-graders being too old and mature to be mixing with the younger students.

"Now you're telling us that it's OK to put fourth- and fifth-graders in middle school?" she asked.

While many community members believe they are the underdogs who have been left out of the process, and that the input they are now being allowed to give is too little too late in what they perceive to be a "done deal, at least one school board member is on their side.

"Oh, Eastwood has to say," board member and Dundalk resident Ed Parker said after the meeting. "We can have it all—we have to leave this great little school, and create a STEM academy.

"The center of this all has to be what is best for our kids for them to reach the potential they all have—not what's best for the budget, not what's good for one building or another."

School board President Lawrence Schmidt said the board is scheduled to vote on the matter at its March 5 meeting.

The board will accept additional written comments until then. Comments may be mailed to the board at 6901 Charles St., Towson, MD 21204.

Buzz Beeler February 14, 2013 at 02:07 PM
Freddy, the county assigns regular officers to the schools. They are called SRO's or School Resource Officers. They are in the middle through high schools. When I was still working they would come to me to set up traffic safety classes or school fairs on of various kinds of these issues. You are probably thinking of the city where they do have school police force.
mom of 2 February 14, 2013 at 02:25 PM
Eastwood was open to be a handicap school not a magnet school in the long run it became a magnet school. This helped many parents in thier worries of sending thier children to the schools that they are not happy with!! the schoools that they did not want thier children to attend! For some reason parents never thought this would change! Now other children will benefit from a stem magnet school which is wonderful for other students, the students that might applied for Eastwood and did not get in but Eastwood parents are not looking at it in that view because you are only thinking about your own families!!!!!!!
tim sapp February 14, 2013 at 02:49 PM
Freddy Norwood is over crowded and Colegate, Eastwood are all at capacity. But there are 5 middle schools in a close radius that are under-enrolled, common sense say merge them!!!
tim sapp February 14, 2013 at 02:56 PM
Not looking at it that way. Concerned with the safety of my 10 year old that will be mixed in with 15 year olds, in a new building in a hastily thrown together plan. Why the rush to make it a STEM? Would you want your 4th grader to attend class in a building where a sexual assault took place on a 13 year old? When there are 5 other middle schools under-enrolled why put elementary kids in with middle school kids? Why not get that STEM school by combining the middle schools? Why cause they want the building!!!!! Nowhere in the county has this been done, and the school board proposing this plan has research to show it doesn't work!!! Why should my child be a guinea pig for the sake of the county executive who is pushing this for the building!!!!
tim sapp February 14, 2013 at 02:59 PM
Buzz a assault happened in the Holabird building with a drug resource police officer in the building!!! Funny how the educators have not addressed the concerns over student safety that parents of the elementary schools that will be forced into the school.
tim sapp February 14, 2013 at 03:03 PM
There are few good schools in the Dundalk area and Eastwood is one of them, why would you want that taken away? They say this will be a good thing for the community but it will not. The county made promises they will not keep and if you think the idea is great then send your kids there
tim sapp February 14, 2013 at 03:08 PM
Freddy the police station brings, criminals, more traffic, noise from sirens, sex offenders must come to a area with alot of children, and the homeless offenders must report weekly, the police station is going to be directly across the street from our houses, the police station never closes. And the police station will be there temporarily!!! Ask any realtor good schools in a safe location attract people to a area not police station?Would you buy a house in across the street from police station? I would not and most residents agree with me!!!
Ashley Virginia February 14, 2013 at 03:53 PM
Freddy, the police department will require more space, taking away playgrounds and feilds. They also test there alarms every morning at an early hour and no one wants to live near that. Also, sex offenders are required to report to the station either, each week, every six months or every year depending on their offense.
Ashley Virginia February 14, 2013 at 03:54 PM
Tim, we have been told it is a permanet move for the police station.
Ashley Virginia February 14, 2013 at 03:59 PM
The children of Eastwood earn nothing. They lose a close nit school of only having twenty or so in a class to haveing over a hundred in a class. They can combine norwood and holibard and have the same plan but do not involve Eastwood. I am not a parent nor did I ever attend public school. I am speaking from my experience and from people I know. They know that little kids are not ready for middle school when they are in 5th grade and they shouldnt be foreced to.
Buzz Beeler February 14, 2013 at 04:43 PM
Ashley, one way to find out how much thought or planning went into this is get the paper work, plans, studies, cost analysis along with other issues. This can be done with a PIA. Then we will see how much planing went into this and not - just cause the chief said it was OK - sure!
Ashley Virginia February 14, 2013 at 05:02 PM
Buzz, I have been involved with everything since it was announced in decemeber.
Freddy February 14, 2013 at 05:30 PM
Tim Will have to disagree with you on this. Yes I would purchase a home if I was looking across the street from a station house. Crime maybe reduced just for the simple fact it's there. Are you aware there are 9 sex offenders in your neighborhood? And about another 20 plus surrounding your area. ON top of that you have multiple assaults in the area along with other various crimes. Siren noise will remain the same outside of daily checks. Never heard of homeless offenders reporting to a police station, for what? I understand your frustration but the good times are gone and cut backs are needed and if consolidation is part of the solution then so be it. Like I said I hope other consolidations would be made as well in all forms of government. I am sick to seeing I'm giving the government over 34% of my earnings every two weeks.
tim sapp February 14, 2013 at 06:38 PM
Good Freddy there are 2 for sale right now. Let me know how it works out for you. Police station does not decrease crime in area, remember they are sitting in the station waiting for calls. They will bring more offenders to area more than that are already here.
Freddy February 14, 2013 at 06:47 PM
I will pass have a beautiful home by the college, which is the site of the BCoPD academy. And to correct you police officers don't sit in the station waiting on calls they travel their post. Even if they did sit in the station just think of the service you would get being so close.
tim sapp February 14, 2013 at 06:49 PM
Some seemed to be confused, the plan is to close Eastwood (school at capacity), merge Eastwood students with Norwood (which is over crowded) by combining pre k thru 3rd grade at Norwood and Eastwood, while removing 4th and 5th grade students from Norwood and Eastwood and combining then with Holabird (under enrolled) middle school kids in a school that will have 800 plus kids from grades 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th!!! Explain to me how this is a good plan? Eastwood is not only losing but so are the 4th and 5th graders of Norwood!! And other students will loose as well since Norwood has no special education in place for prek thru kindergarten those students will be displaced as well. All this being done to elementary kids without even consideration of closing one of the many under-enrolled middle schools. And for the record when was the last time a new school was built in this region? Towson has some great new schools, we have old building with empty promises!!!Sounds like a poorly hatched plan wrought with failure!!! And to Freddy speak with a relator are and schools sell homes not police station!!!
Freddy February 14, 2013 at 07:21 PM
Dundalk High School and Edgemere elementary are the newest schools in our area. Other schools that have been rebuilt Dundalk Middle and Dundalk Elementary with modifications done to various schools throughout our area.
QuietButAngry February 14, 2013 at 11:39 PM
The 2 teachers that spoke were asked to speak by the Norwood principal. They do not represent the opinions or feeling of teachers at the schools involved! Teachers are not happy at all with this change or how it is happening. The problem is, teachers have to be careful because this is their job, their family income! If teachers speak up against this there will be reprocusions that could effect their job/career. Ask any teacher other than those 2 and you'll get a totally different story!!!
Ashley Virginia February 15, 2013 at 01:13 AM
Tim, obviously Freddy is under the impression that this merge is going to save him money in his paycheck. HA! It's going to take thousands of dollars to change Eastwood into the police station. And he obviously doesn't care about the students well being and where the Children of eastwood can safely play. All he cares about is how fat his wallet is, maybe he's a politician? And Freddy, after every call an officer makes they are to return to the station to complete paper work. It is going to cause delays in answering calls to the other areas of Dundalk and that delay could mean someone's life. And homeless sex offenders are required to report to the station every week. So all the sex offenders in dudalk will be in Eastwood, with all the kids...
Freddy February 15, 2013 at 01:24 AM
This form of government is over as we know it so get use to it. The days of everybody getting what they want is done. Pack your kids up in your mini van and travel to the next school over. You are not the first school to go through this, get over it. You are right I'm sick of seeing my tax dollars wasted. So if I'm in favor of moving 150 kids so be it. As for police going back to the station after every call you just want to ask a patrol officer that question. But his answer will be NO. they code out calls in their vehicles and do reports as they sit their post. Yes when there is a lock up then its off to the station. Before you worry about sex offenders coming to your neighborhood due to the new police station FYI they already live there.
Ashley Virginia February 15, 2013 at 04:01 AM
There is a huge difference between 7 and many. I have lived in Dundalk my whole life and I am tired of seeing things taken away from us am our kids ring used as guinea pigs because the county has screwed up and is out of money. They want budget cuts and you want to save money, which yea right more will prob come out now, then close one of the many under enrolled middle schools in the region and merge them with holibard. And since your for it, I guess when a fourth grader gets pregnant hurt even kills themselves their blood can be on your hands along with anyone else who is for this idiotic rushed plan And as for their computers, a lot of them do not work. So Freddy check your facts out.
Buzz Beeler February 15, 2013 at 01:35 PM
Ashley, did they actually do any studies on the moves involving the schools that you saw. Did you see anything on the issues of cost involving the police station among other issues including renovation of the various buildings?
Ashley Virginia February 15, 2013 at 02:03 PM
No. There have been no studies that we are aware of, unless they are being kept secet because it will destroy Kamenetz plan. We are aware that the buli prints to revamp the school into the precinct have already been drawn up and have yet to be released to the public. They have to expand the parking lot, and tranform classrooms into holding cells, its going to be alot of money, but no one will answer any of our questions.
Freddy February 15, 2013 at 10:14 PM
All I see is emotions, emotions and more emotions and not a lot of logic from parents of the children that attend that school. Get over it.
Ashley Virginia February 16, 2013 at 04:07 AM
Fact, Eastwood is running at capacity. Fact, Norwood is over and Holibard is under. Fact, Eastwood students are losing their small class sizes that help them excel and being forced into classes of at least 200 hundred students. Fact, Eastwood students will gain nothing. Fact 4th and 5th graders will be pushed into middle school before they are mentally prepared. Fact, You are an inconsiderate jerk who obviously cares nothing about children or Dundalk and probably work for Kamenetz. Fact, I am not a parent of a student but am a college student who is tired of seeing the town I grew up in being trampled on by all the damn politicians who care nothing about us and do not even live here.
tim sapp February 16, 2013 at 10:49 AM
Ashley I agree with you. Dundalk has not seen any good times in years. One new school built in our area in 30 years and mandatory repairs in others is squat. Empty retail spots, empty industrial spots and people fleeing the area. The county needs to stop wasting money like refurbishing a building for a temporay basis, and paying people to drive our elected officals around. There is alot of waste in the county and closing one elementary school while 5 other middle shools are underenrolled makes no sense and will cost tax payers more money. And per the BCPS officals who made the decisions with pressure from county executive who appointed them, they new toured any of the schools invilved, sound like good planning? NO!!!
Ashley Virginia February 17, 2013 at 04:25 PM
Tim, I was just informed yesterday that the school board visited Holibard middle this week. From what I was told sound to be like they have already started to build classrooms for fourth and fifth graders yet the school board has not reached a decision? Sound fishy to me
Buzz Beeler February 18, 2013 at 03:46 PM
Ashley on the blog I wrote Mr. Sheppard stated in response to a question from the audience that the final decision would be left with Mr. Kamenetz. Connect the dots on the school board. No one can tell me that in the short time that Dr. Dance has been here he has a handle on this issue. The deal is done but on the down side I think it could cost Mr. Kamenetz his bid for a second term depending on the outcomes of the RFP's and the role of the PUD and its impact. In Towson the outcry doesn't stop the movement of the FD, just the location away from the park.
Ashley Virginia February 19, 2013 at 02:34 PM
They still spoke up adn saved their park, Just goes to show that Dundalk has no voice in this government and that they could care less when it comes to any of us. All they care about is the money in thier pocket. And legally Kamenetz does not have the final say. The school board does. And according to the law this should have gone infront of rezoning by november 10th of last year.
Buzz Beeler February 19, 2013 at 08:28 PM
Tim, did you pass that information onto Marge about the assault? There should be a report filed. Sorry this comment took awhile, have been busy.


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