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Parents Upset With Proposed 'Merger' of Three Schools

One proposal would merge Eastwood and Norwood Elementary and Holabird Middle schools into a K-8 STEM academy.

About 150 Dundalk residents and school children attended a meeting Monday night at Holabird Middle School that addressed the futures of three Dundalk schools.

Parents said they were notified of the meeting late last week and were given little information as to what it was about.

The meeting was called to discuss a potential reorganization of Eastwood Elementary Magnet, Norwood Elementary and Holabird Middle schools.

At its end, some parents thought school officials delivered mixed messages.

School system Deputy Superintendent Kevin Hobbs told those gathered that no school was being closed, but parents said they heard something completely different.

"Nothing's being shut down, nothing's being lost, we're not losing a school," Hobbs told the crowd. "We'll still have three schools; where they're located, how they're configured, how they interact with each other" remains to be determined.

But after two possible plans were shared with the audience, it seems that Eastwood Elementary disappears. The building will close and the name will no longer be used.

The first plan discussed with parents calls for the creation of the Holabird STEM Academy, a K-8 school that would concentrate on course work in science, technology, engineering and math. All three schools would merge to create the new academy.

The academy would exist in two buildings—the current Norwood and Holabird schools—with pre-k through third grade in the Lower School at the elementary building and grades four through eight in the Upper School at the middle school building.

The second option calls for the creation of Holabird STEM Academy by merging Eastwood and Holabird and housing all K-8 students in the middle school building.

In that option, Norwood Elementary would remain a pre-k-8 school—in its own building—with a focus on STEM courses.

In both scenarios, the Eastwood building would be abandoned and the school now known as Eastwood would cease to exist.

While the principals of all three affected schools praised the abundance of opportunities that will be available to students because of the merger, parents were emotional about the decisions and angry about the lack of notice and opportunity to participate in the decision-making process.

Dan and Tammy Ricci, the parents of Eastwood first-grader Rachel, aren't happy about losing a school and magnet program they believe their daughter has benefited from.

"It's just unfair that they hit us over the head with closing our school," Dan Ricci said. "They basically told us, 'It's closing, get over it, let's move forward.'"

Administrators keep referring to everything about the merger as "opportunities," he said, but he sees lots of drawbacks as well.

Both parents said Eastwood's magnet program is "excellent," and they referred to Eastwood as a "hidden gem" of a school.

Tammy Ricci said she has concerns about the broad mix of student ages in one building, as well as children from ages 4 to 14 potentially riding the same bus.

During the meeting, a question-and-answer session brought up many concerns, including where funding will come from to pay for new and additional technology, how busing will be handled, what new programs and opportunities will exist and what will happen to the Eastwood property.

If Eastwood is declared surplus property, the school system will turn the deed over to Baltimore County government, which will then decide how to utilize or dispose of it. One possibility for the land being discussed is to use it to build a new police precinct for Dundalk.

Monday's meeting was a short and to-the-point gathering to share with parents the decision-making process so far and to invite them to participate in smaller meetings and focus groups that will be held at each affected school.

Parents will have a say in choosing the option selected, officials said; parent feedback will be taken into consideration before the final decision is made.

Some parents think that promise of participation is lip-service.

Eastwood PTA President Kim Barnhouser said the 186-student school is a close community.

"We're all very tight; I can tell you about all the kids at Eastwood," she said. "There are a lot of questions and I don't feel that we're getting any answers. Everything was already decided. It's a done deal."

Dan Ricci said he and his wife plan to be as involved as possible in the process as it plays out.

"When I wake up in the morning, I'm going to have a million questions," he said.

Read more:

  • School Reorganization Could Lead to New Police Precinct
  • Hobbs: Dundalk School Reorganization Not Indicative of Countywide Trend

Patch Editor Nayana Davis contributed to this article.

Tom December 11, 2012 at 11:47 AM
Take a look at this report, Norwood is already at 112% capacity. Our children's best interest is not the focus here! How can they get away with this! http://resources.baltimorecountymd.gov/Documents/Planning/apfo/apfoschoolreport010912.pdf
Wayne Monroe December 11, 2012 at 12:30 PM
I don't understand the county's determination to sell the site of precinct 12 and the government center to a developer ostensibly for some big box store when there is retail space going begging in the area, like Merritt Park across the street. Moving precinct 12 to Eastwood makes no sense. The police station should be centrally located and easily accessible to all. Eastwood isn't even in the Dumdalk zip code. If a new police station is needed I maintain it could be built on the present site with some partial demolition of the building to accomodate new construction. Of course, a new government center should include new office space for the new councilman Dundalk deserves.
Buzz Beeler December 11, 2012 at 04:05 PM
What do people expect from the county's leadership. Out of the blue we get hit with this. Great transparency just like we were promised - NOT! It's looking more like a dictatorship where the citizens are an afterthought. Count up in dollars and cents the mistakes the county has made and it's astounding. I've said this time after time, you got just what your voted for.
Buzz Beeler December 11, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Wayne who would be crazy enough to by any property in Dundalk right now? Merrit Park can't attract a food chain store. We have two bankrupt shopping centers right up the street. Our business vacancy rate is about 30% and only God knows what the unemployment rate is. Not good numbers to put on a - for sale sign! And one more thing Wayne, box stores are dead. They are closing faster than a speeding bullet.
Michelle DiMarzio December 11, 2012 at 04:27 PM
I was at the meeting last night. The lead-up to the meeting could have been handled much better, but the presentation by th principals was informative and I believe the options presented have the potential to very positive. I am actually very excited about the opportunity for my children to attend a k-8 school. The need at this point is for rational and respectful dialog to make the best of the situation.
Al Day December 11, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Smoke and mirrors
Eastwood mom December 11, 2012 at 05:24 PM
This is shameful. My son attends Eastwood and I do not want my 8 yr old with 6,7 and 8 graders. This makes me sick to my stomach. They do not care about our children's education. Norwood is over capacity. They are teaching out of trailers. And they think bringing more kids to this school is a good idea. Also, a lot of staff at Eastwood would be losing their jobs. Great idea lets put more people in the unemployment line. Not!! And they are doing away with Eastwoods special education program. Children who have Down syndrome and other special needs similar to that. These kids are losing out big. This is pathetic and it's not fair. What an careless idiot he is to come up with such an idea. You sit in your office making your large salary and it don't effect your family or kids. So yeah he don't care about all these kids you are effecting. I could go on and on but what's the use. It's not going to change a thing.
Tricia Selby December 11, 2012 at 05:51 PM
I was also at the meeting last night. I have a 2nd grader and one to enter kindergarten at Eastwood. Even though I love the close knit community/family at Eastwood, I am extremely grateful that our children still have the opportunity to continue with the wonderful magnet school education. I am even more excited to know that my boys will continue though into the magnet middle school. I worried so much about where to send my boys to middle school and this is just wonderful! As for the younger children mixing with the older children....I attended and graduated from Sparrows Point Middle and Sparrows Point High schools. When I was in high school, we NEVER saw the middle schoolers. They started at different times, had different bell schedules, bus times, etc. It worked for Sparrows Point, it can work here, too. This is a wonderful opportunity for the Dundalk community!!! To share the wonderful education that we have been getting in the "hidden gem" with other children in Dundalk is AWESOME!!!
Sueb December 11, 2012 at 06:53 PM
ONE of the problems in dundalk is too many old structures exist and need to be torn down! not renovated. Who cares how old the building is? If it has been a continuing failure get rid of it. CHANGE is good! and Dundalk needs to move forward!
Bejacker December 11, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Is John Vontran, the same developer that filed for personal bankruptcy in Dec, 2010? "Yorkway Developer Files for Chapter 7 Liquidation Bankruptcy trustee accuses John Vontran of ‘gross mismanagement’ and providing ‘inaccurate and incomplete information.’ Effect on ambitious Dundalk development project remains uncertain, though work continues, a published report says." or someone else that filed for Chapter 7, personal bankruptcy? Please advice
Buzz Beeler December 11, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Sueb, change is good but debt is bad. Who is going to pay for this? It all hinges on the sale of the county property. This country is moving forward to, right off cliff a finical cliff. Money does not grow on trees.
mom of 2 December 11, 2012 at 07:17 PM
I am not sure if you attended meeting last night but it was not metioned that Eastwood teachers would be losing their jobs! Or did they say that the special needs program will be down away with! I am sorry but it sounds to me you are just worried about your own child and not how this would help so many others!
Bejacker December 11, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Is this the correct "John Vontran" " Yorkway Developer Files for Chapter 7 Liquidation Bankruptcy trustee accuses John Vontran of ‘gross mismanagement’ Dec 2010" and " Yorkway Developer Files for Chapter 7 Liquidation who bought the onetime site of the troubled Yorkway apartment complex in Dundalk promising to build 66 upscale homes, has consented to Chapter 7" and who is also "a political supporter of Kamenetz and Councilman John Olszewski Sr., was interested in a land swap that would have allowed him to build big box retailers on the North Point Government Center site while moving county offices to the site of the former Seagram's Distillery."? Please advise if incorrect. Thanks Or is the following statement wrong "
mom of 2 December 11, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Thank you there are so many negative comments about this and I don't think everyone is understanding how much this is going to help all 3 schools!
Wayne Monroe December 11, 2012 at 09:05 PM
You bet. Same guy.
Tom December 11, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Go to Facebook and like the support Eastwood Elementary page. let you voice be heard.
Rita Weber December 12, 2012 at 02:04 AM
here is the support Eastwood link .... https://www.facebook.com/SupportEastwoodElementaryMagnetSchool
DHAMMER December 12, 2012 at 02:53 AM
you voted them in and now your really going to get the pay back,this is how a one Party County works Young People. they are the Supreme Beings and you are nothing more then a number entitaled to nothing .
Buzz Beeler December 12, 2012 at 03:07 AM
Darrell, great comment. They do whatever the want. The people got what they voted for.
Steve December 12, 2012 at 03:41 AM
"you voted them in and now your really going to get the pay back,this is how a one Party County works Young People. they are the Supreme Beings and you are nothing more then a number entitaled to nothing ." Buzz Beeler 31 minutes ago "Darrell, great comment." Great comment??? "...entitaled"?? Gibberish...,
Buzz Beeler December 12, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Isn't it laundry detail for you today or is it mopping the floors? http://www.google.com/imgres?hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=mVn&sa=X&tbo=d&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&biw=1600&bih=797&tbm=isch&tbnid=2TS9kWpbcEZ_uM:&imgrefurl=http://www.picturesof.net/pages/081007-235488-135048.html&docid=k-AAWYZ9DD8Y-M&imgurl=http://www.picturesof.net/_images_300/Man_Mopping_A_Floor_Royalty_Free_Clipart_Picture_081007-235488-135048.jpg&w=300&h=275&ei=xoPIUNueBfKO0QHE_4CQCA&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=893&vpy=272&dur=1207&hovh=215&hovw=235&tx=94&ty=114&sig=107318955093286303117&page=1&tbnh=135&tbnw=147&start=0&ndsp=41&ved=1t:429,r:17,s:0,i:138
Buzz Beeler December 12, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Why don't you go help Frank with the laundry. Another well constructed sentence for the educated culture. We have to sell our buildings and transfer our children for the likes of your kind. At least the bars keep you off the street.
MMF December 19, 2012 at 03:17 AM
I can say 100% I did not vote these fools into their places so I have all right to be pissed off that my daughter's school is closing at the end of this yr for a damn police station when there are a ton of empty buildings around the Dundalk area they can sell the govt center and use the money to pay another building to use as a police station and leave our Eastwood Magnet School Students and their school alone! Back off you heartless County Executives! The fight is not over and we will not go down undefeated! Go Eastwood Supporters!!!!
davejohson January 03, 2013 at 06:28 AM
Too bad but all you dundalk democrats voted them in so you get what you asked for. When things go bad you all cry and deny voting for them, but someone voted them in office now take your medicine and live with it
Tom January 03, 2013 at 06:31 AM
Hey Dave, i will not live with it. I did not vote for them nor am I a democrat. You are obviously to ignorant to understand that this is about the safety and well being of children.

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