(Update 11:10 p.m.)— Following , the Baltimore County Board of Education voted Tuesday night to approve a proposal by Superintendent Dallas Dance to close the Eastwood Elementary School facility.
"I think ultimately in our roles as board members to look at education opportunities for students we just felt [the Eastwood STEM magnet program] is an exceptional program that should be expanded," Board President Lawrence Schmidt said after the vote.
Dance's recommendation calls for Eastwood's program to be merged with Holabird Middle School and Norwood Elementary School as a new pre-kindergarten through eighth grade school housed on the Holabird Middle and Norwood campuses effective in the 2013-2014 school year called the Holabird STEM Academy.
The superintendent has said on multiple occassions that the intent of the consolidation is to expand the Eastwood program to more students. He noted Tuesday that about 100 students were on the waiting list to participate in the school's STEM magnet program.
Eight board members voted in favor of the proposal, and new member Romaine Williams and H. Edward Parker, who represents the Dundalk area, abstained. Board member Roger Janssen was absent.
Pre-kindergarten through third grade would be based at Norwood, and fourth through eighth at Holabird.
Parents of Dundalk area students were first notified of plans for the merger at a December 2012 meeting. Since then, Eastwood parents have campaigned against the school's closure—staging protests, speaking at board and county council meetings.
The parents have also accused the school system of bending to the will of County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who is actively working to sell off property to construct new county facilities to replace aging infrastructure.
Schmidt said he understands the parents concerns, but rebuked criticism that he or any of the other board members were influenced by Kamenetz.
"I didn't make this decision to agree with Kevin Kamenetz," he said.
The superintendent cited timing the consolidation with the full implementation of the Common Core standards, the desire to extend the program to more students as quickly as possible.
Additionally, Dance pointed out that the closure would save the school system approximately $700,000 a year. The savings from first year following Eastwood's closure would go towards technology upgrades at Holabird STEM Academy.
"This is about bringing an exciting new concept to that area in the county," he said.