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Proposal: Creating a More Equitable School System by Redistricting Allegany County

In Allegany County, students living in poverty are bussed out of Cumberland to schools with wealthier populations, and deprived of government funded resources, which would be available through Title I. Additionally, the school districts are outdated and reflect a time before heavy consolidation. The system is greatly in need of redistricting.

The Issue

Problem Defined

Redistricting of Allegany County Public Schools is long overdue and is necessary in order to optimize the learning experience of hundreds of students across the county. This change must be implemented soon before our county can no longer support its current schools due to lack of funds. 

Background
Expand all bullets
1.
Heavy consolidation over the past 40 years has resulted in inequitable school districts MORE

Allegany County Public Schools Districting Map

In the 1980s, the number of elementary schools in Allegany County was cut in half, and impoverished students started being bussed out of their neighborhoods to the suburbs, fifteen to twenty minutes away. This issue, that has continued for the past three decades, is neglecting to provide children with a fair public education that meets their higher needs, and it is an issue that has continued to go unnoticed. Additionally, as schools have closed, district lines haven't been redrawn, old districts have just assimilated into new ones. This has resulted in district boundaries that do not reflect our current populations well enough. 

2.
Impoverished students are bussed out of the city to suburban neighborhood elementary schools MORE

Allegany County Public Schools District Map

Allegany County Public Schools busses students from North End and East Side to five different elementary schools across the county. This takes the students away from the Title I funded schools most closely located to their neighborhoods and the extra programs and staffing which would be available to them through Title I programing at these schools. The idea behind this is to expose students across the county to those who are of a lower socioeconomic status than themselves. However this is only taking away from the needs of the inner city students, who are being sent to schools less convenient to them. These students cannot walk to school if they miss the bus, or if there is an after school event that doesn't provide bus transportation. Additionally, these students are alienated in these suburban schools as their environments are different than the ones these city students are used to. 

3.
Students are bussed over an hour to schoolsMORE

Allegany County Public Schools District Map

All three unincorporated communities in the rural half of the county, Flintstone, Oldtown, and Little Orleans, filter into the same elementary school, Flintstone Elementary. Not even twenty years ago, the furthermost, Little Orleans, had the luxury of Board of Education spending paying for students to go to Hancock Junior-Senior High, the closest school to them geographically, but in a different county. This is another convenience that has been taken away from our county’s population as Board funding has decreased. This is due in part to the fact that Allegany County Public Schools gets $11,000 per student from our state’s government. As our county’s population decreases, this is what is hurting our school system the most. A piece of legislation passed in the mid 80’s known as the Taylor Bussing Bill once protected these students by making it illegal for public school students to be bussed over an hour to school. This bill was overturned when Flintstone K-12 became and elementary school and Oldtown K-12 closed.

4.
Braddock and Washington Middle School are in need of being remodeled or rebuiltMORE

The two city middle schools, which were both built in 1965, are outdated and falling apart. They have been identified by the Board of Education as being in great need of either a remodel, or to be rebuilt altogether, in order to optimize the safety and learning environment of the buildings. However there is not enough money to fund either of these projects. 

5.
Schools are closed and consolidated rather than cutting unnecessary BOE spendingMORE

ACPS spends over $200,000 a year sending fifth graders to outdoor school which is located in Garrett County.  These students spend a week in cabins learning about nature conservation. This has put community based elementary schools at risk of closing because the money that could be spent to fund these schools is being wasted on an unnecessary field trip.

Sources
1.
ACPS Current School District Map

Allegany County Public Schools Department of Transportation -

http://alleganygis.allconet.org/ACPS/schoolmap.html

This map is the current elementary, middle, and high school district borders of the public school system in Allegany County Maryland.

2.
Elementary Schools Facility Utilization Study

Allegany County Public Schools -

https://www.acpsmd.org/Page/2534

All public information pertaining to the facilities study that was conducted in regard to the elementary schools in Allegany County. 

Go deeper
1.
Longterm Washington County Public Schools plan could close, consolidate 6 schools

Alexis Fitzpatrick - Herald-Mail Media (May 23, 2019)

https://www.heraldmailmedia.com/news/local/longterm-washington-county-public-schools-plan-could-close-consolidate-schools/article_adabf46e-1bef-5bd9-8efb-94cb97f58bbc.html

This article details the next steps to better Washington County, MD's public school system. As a neighbor to Allegany County, readers can take from these steps ideas as to what are good examples for similar counties to follow. 

Authors

Wil Brauer is a student at Allegany College of Maryland, and Fort Hill High School alumnus. Growing up with both parents in the education system, Wil is active in campaigning for Allegany County Public School needs. 



Wil Brauer
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Diane McMahon
Associate Professor of Sociology - Allegany College of Maryland
I am a sociology professor at Allegany College of Maryland, which is located in Cumberland, MD. I also work as the Faculty Director of the Service Learning and Civic Engagement (SLCE) Center at the college. I have worked in a variety of professions in my past that focuses on helping the homeless. Most recently I was the director of a peace and justice organization in Pittsburgh.

I am a great supporter of the work of TheChisel.com because it helps raise up topics that students and community members can work on together, in a bi-partisan manner, to address.

The Solution

Proposed Actions
Expand all bullets
1.
Consolidate George's Creek Elementary School into Westmar Middle SchoolMORE

To prepare for the expected decrease in population in the Lower George’s Creek area, following the closing of Verso Luke Mill, George’s Creek Elementary School should be closed and consolidated into Westmar Middle, just down the road. An open space school, which proved to be a failed experiment of education in the 1970’s, George’s Creek’s learning environment is outdated, and its enrollment is predicted to soon take a hit, as well as Westernport Elementary. To preserve Westernport Elementary’s historic school building and closed classroom environment, George’s Creek should close, and its population move into the extra classroom space of Westmar Middle. Additionally, the Westmar Middle School building and Westernport Elementary are both centrally located in their respective towns, where more students have the ability to walk rather than be transported by bus.

2.
Close Cash Valley Elementary rather than the proposed closing of Parkside Elementary SchoolMORE

Secondly, out of the two LaVale schools, Parkside and Cash Valley Elementary, Cash Valley should be closed and its student population consolidated into Parkside, Westside, and Northeast Elementary Schools. Cash Valley is another open space school, which has proven to lead to student safety risks and encourage distractions, among other issues. Parkside is located in a neighborhood where students can walk to school and Cash Valley is not. Cash Valley is located next to the continuously-expanding, middle class neighborhood of Ashley Heights, and Allegany County Public Schools could sell the land to this neighborhood for more housing to be built, in an effort to increase Allegany County’s population. Cash Valley is one of the schools that busses students out of the city and this makes up for almost half of the school’s population. These students would be able to be returned to the schools closest to them, Westside and Northeast, which would offer them the programs they qualify for. Parkside Elementary should under no circumstance be closed. The building would still have to be maintained, as it holds a backup generator to power all of LaVale in the event of an emergency situation, and its playgrounds must be maintained until 2032 because they were grant funded.

3.
Close Braddock Middle School and replace with 'Allegany Middle School'MORE

The last consolidation effort to take place would be the conversion of Allegany High School into a middle school to solve the issue of Washington and Braddock Middle Schools being in desperate need of remodeling. Our county doesn’t have the money to fund this project after it closed the old Allegany High School and built a middle school sized high school as its replacement. Allegany Middle could hypothetically filter into Fort Hill High School along with Washington Middle School and replace Braddock Middle. This would give Washington, which many students walk to, a greater chance at being remodeled in the coming years from all the money that would be saved by closing a high school and two elementary schools. The former Allegany High School’s feeder schools would be divided between the Fort Hill feeder system and the Mountain Ridge feeder system. Parkside Elementary would feed into Mount Savage Middle, and Mountain Ridge High School, and Cresaptown and Westside Elementary would filter into the new Allegany Middle School and Fort Hill High School. This would close the gap between Bel Air Elementary and the rest of the Fort Hill feeder school district, and send LaVale students to a completely feasible middle and high school.

4.
Return Cumberland's impoverished population to the schools most convenient to themMORE

Lastly and most importantly, is the return of Cumberland’s impoverished population to the schools that are in their best interest. Upper Bedford and Frederick Street, which currently is sent all the way to Cash Valley, should be sent to Northeast Elementary just up the road and across a hill. As for Decatur St., Columbia St., Baltimore Ave., and Mechanic and Center St. children, they should all be sent to Westside, which would be a walkable distance in the event of a missed bus or an after school event. Westside currently has a Chinese Immersion Program that has attracted students from outside of the school's district boundaries, artificially inflating the school's population. Simultaneously the schools in which these students should be attending have seen a decrease in population. If this program is to continue it should be moved to Parkside Elementary, where a significant portion of the students who participate in the emersion program should actually be attending school. Westside should be converted into a strictly city-oriented school with the Title I programs that Cumberland’s youth from lower income families deserve.

5.
Additional major redistricting changesMORE
  • The lowering of the Fort Hill/Mountain Ridge line below Rawlings, MD to a more logical latitude to reflect the changing of districts. This line is leftover from the old Bruce (1893-1986) and Westmar High School (1987-2007) districting borders. 
  • The portion of Frost Elementary School District below Interstate 68 sent with Georges Creek Elementary’s population to Westmar Middle, rather than Mount Savage Middle which is much further.
  • The redistricting of the Frostburg region to more evenly divide its population between Frost and Beall Elementary Schools. 
  • The line between Cresaptown and Bel Air Elementary schools being continuous with the line between the middle and high school districting borders. 
  • Sending a portion of Oldtown to either John Humbird or South Penn where it would be more convenient than bussing these students to Flintstone Elementary.  
  • Sending students who live past Oldtown in the Green Ridge, Little Orleans, and Bellegrove areas to Hancock Junior-Senior High in Washington County.
6.
Flintstone Elementary becomes Flintstone K-8MORE

Students at Flintstone Elementary travel by bus over an hour to school each day, and further to Washington Middle School. If Flintstone was made a K-8 like Mount Savage School, this would be more convenient to the students and more convenient to bus drivers that service this school district. Additionally, the displaced teachers from the three schools that would be closed and consolidated could find jobs at Flinstone K-8 because more positions would open at that school due to this change.

7.
Expand the Center for Career and Technical Education to 10th-12th gradeMORE

CCTE's enrollment is down and expanding it to a third grade level would help enrollment increase. This could be done by sending displaced teachers from the closed schools to the Career Center and it would help cut down on the two high school's populations which would sit at about 1000 students at Mountain Ridge and 1200 at Fort Hill.

8.
End Outdoor SchoolMORE

$250,000 are spent each year to send fifth grade students from all the elementary schools to a week long outdoor camp in Garrett County. This field trip could be done without the overnight aspect or not done at all in order to save money for our county's school system. 

Expected Results
Expand all bullets
1.
All students who qualify for Title I programs will benefitMORE

By redistricting the elementary schools to no longer bus city neighborhood populations out of the city, all students who come from low income families and qualify for Title I programming would be able to benefit at schools that are more convenient for them. 

2.
Easier accessibility to schools in the community MORE

With the new district lines, hundreds more families will have better access to their schools which will be more conveniently located with respect to home and work. Cumberland's population will no longer be bussed to LaVale and Cresaptown and almost all city schools will be walkable. This will alleviate difficulties transporting children to school and allow for the community based schools to be utilized by the whole community. Additionally Bel Air and Cresaptown Elementary's populations will be more centralized around the Northrop Grumman and Allegany Balistics Laboratory and Western Correctional Institution where many of these student's families have jobs. 

3.
Increase in attendance MORE

More convenient school districts would result in less missed busses in the mornings due to shorter bus rides and the availability of walking to school. Increased attendance would in turn result in increased academic achievement. 

4.
A decrease in demand for bus driversMORE

Our county is currently experiencing a bus driver shortage. By redistricting in the ways laid out in this proposal, illogical bus routes would be cut or shortened. This would lessen the need for new bus drivers and save money. 

5.
An increase in students focusing on post-high school educationMORE

By increasing the opportunities made available by the Center for Career and Technical Education, more students would be inclined to start thinking about their career paths early and get a head start with the programs offered there. 

6.
An increase in support for the high school sports programsMORE

With the consolidation of three county high schools into two, there would be the availability of a JV team for each support, which has gone dissipated in recent years due to lack of numbers and interest. This would also allow for students who currently go to school out of district for better sporting opportunities to go to school in district. 

7.
Less elementary aged students stigmatized for being differentMORE

Students living in poverty would no longer be displaced to school with more students of higher socioeconomic status. They would be returned to schools closer to their homes and with children similar to themselves. School would become a better experience for them as they would more easily be able to make friends and not stand out for negative reasons. 

8.
A decrease in cliques and the competitiveness of popularity in high schools MORE

When one middle school feeds into one high school as it currently does, the same adolescents are together for seven years. This leads to students developing long lasting cliques, developing reputations from middle school that stay with them into high school, and falling into a hierarchy of popularity. By having two high schools, each with two feeder middle schools, this allows for a fresh start in high school with a whole new crop of peers. This counters the popularity hierarchy from middle school and allows for new friendships to come about in the next four years from all the new faces. 

9.
A more even distribution of Frostburg's elementary schoolsMORE

Beall Elementary School's maximum capacity is 373 students and its current enrollment is 436. By redistricting the Frostburg region, Frost Elementary, which is one of the least populated elementary schools in the county and currently has room for almost 75 more students, would be fuller, and Beall would no longer be so far over its limit. 

Budget

This proposal wouldn't cost much to put into action. The purpose of it would be to save the county millions of dollars. 

The Conversation

3 months ago
When I was in elementary school at Parkside School I remember the students who came from Columbia Street in Cumberland rather than LaVale like the rest of my classmates. They were different in a sense that they didn't have shoes as nice as the rest of us or backpacks as new as the rest of us. Some of them had behavioral issues and some of them didn't know how to use the bathrooms but they were still nice and liked the same things as the rest of us did. As we got older the Columbia Street kids slowly became more noticeably different as they needed extra reading help and speech therapy. By the fifth grade, no one really wanted to sit with them anymore or work with them on a project because of their differences. Had they gone to a school with students who understood them better, they may have had more friends and done things outside of school with their schoolmates. These students of lower socioeconomic status were wrongly sent to Parkside which didn't offer them the Title I programs that would have better benefitted them. By following this plan of redistricting, students like the ones I remember from Bus 77 would be able to have a more inclusive school experience that better suits them.

Cast your vote

The Proposal Creating a More Equitable School System by Redistricting Allegany County needs your vote by April 28, 2020.
Time remaining: 2 months

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