A Washington County Board of Education advisory committee will begin meeting Tuesday about redistricting school attendance zones for three reasons, the most immediate of which is to help ease overcrowding at Pangborn Elementary School for the upcoming school year, school system officials said.
The Board of Education voted 6-0 on Tuesday night to task the Facilities and Enrollment Advisory Committee with making recommendations to the school board no later than April 2 regarding a short-term solution for Pangborn’s overcrowding, according to a video of the Feb. 19 board meeting and a presentation document for the meeting. Board President Justin Hartings was absent during the vote.
The board’s directions to the advisory committee also include redistricting for the new “West City” elementary school that is scheduled to open in the fall of 2016 and to study and recommend any attendance zone changes to alleviate projected overcrowding at other schools, according to the presentation document.
Deadlines for the latter two goals were not set, though the redistricting for the new West City elementary school will need to be done “well in advance” of the new school opening, Robert Rollins, director of facilities planning and development, said Thursday.
The advisory committee will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the board auditorium at the Commonwealth Avenue administrative offices, Rollins said.
Redistricting for the West City school is to include recommendations for a long-term solution to alleviate overcrowding at Pangborn, Rollins told the board.
The opening of the new West City school, in the Hager’s Crossing housing development behind Walmart on the western edge of Hagerstown, will coincide with the closing of Winter Street Elementary, in Hagerstown’s West End, and Conococheague Elementary, west of the city.
Pangborn Elementary is on the eastern side of the city in a neighborhood between Dual Highway and Md. 64, also known as Jefferson Boulevard.
Pangborn’s official attendance is 810 students, while its state-rated capacity is for 745 students, Rollins said Thursday. The school serves kindergarten through fifth grade.
Rollins told the board that redistricting for West City would involve looking at attendance zones for Winter Street and Conococheague as well as school districts adjacent to them, and school zones adjacent to the adjacent school districts.
Among the options the advisory committee could consider to resolve Pangborn’s overcrowding would be an arrangement in which the school handles fewer grades, splitting up grades with another school, Rollins said.
One of the reasons Pangborn’s enrollment has grown so much is the increase in the number of students living in multifamily housing, which has increased in other areas too, Rollins said.
Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox told the board a short-term solution for Pangborn might involve a neighborhood school and one particular housing development.
Wilcox said Thursday he was referring to the Cortland Manor apartments. That is an area school system officials have discussed in the past as being a source of enrollment growth.
Possible solutions could be to have that neighborhood split into different school districts, but the committee will review options, Wilcox said.
The third direction to the advisory committee — to study and recommend any needed changes to alleviate projected enrollment pressures in general — was left intentionally vague, but could affect middle schools, Wilcox said.
School system officials have discussed overcrowding and projected enrollment increases for E. Russell Hicks Middle School, in the South End, in the past year.
Northern Middle School, in the North End, also has been experiencing enrollment pressures, Wilcox said.
Wilcox said school system officials will do several things to get the word out to families in school districts the advisory committee will be looking at, including sending messages home with students.
The school system’s AlertNow phone system could be used to notify families when discussions are occurring about their specific attendance area, he said.
Wilcox said he anticipates most school zones will not be affected by the redistricting.