Parents of students at Eastwood Elementary Magnet School in Dundalk packed a Tuesday night Board of Education meeting to say they felt duped by the school system.
During a Dec. 10 meeting at Holabird Middle School, school officials broke the news to Dundalk families that they intend to merge Eastwood, Holabird and Norwood Elementary Schools. The process includes shutting down the Eastwood facility, although the school system denies this means the end of the school.
The closure of the Eastwood facility is part of a larger plan by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz to sell property to construct new county buildings. The Eastwood property may be used for a new police precinct.
"We feel betrayed," Eric Williams, an Eastwood parent, said to the board. "We feel this was a political agenda you all have been aware of for months."
Williams said he did not want the Eastwood children to be "guinea pigs" for a potential kindergarten through eighth grade pilot program.
"You have broken my child and her classmates' hearts," he said. "This is Christmas time."
He also expressed concern about recent criminal activity at Holabird.
"Eastwood has never had a gun found in the school and its never had a 21-year-old man in the bathroom," he said.
Dan Ricci, another Eastwood parent, shared Williams' outrage about not being alerted to the merger process sooner.
"I feel like I was left out of the process," Ricci said. "I don't know if there were laws broken...certainly something unethical and unprofessional must have happened."
Immediately after the meeting, Board President Lawrence Schmidt could not confirm if and in what capacity decisions about Eastwood and the merger would come before the board.
"I, as president, would want it to come in some capacity," he said.
Superintendent S. Dallas Dance provided the following statement by email after the meeting:
"I appreciate the response and feedback we have received from parents and stakeholders in the Eastwood Elementary, Norwood Elementary, and Holabird Middle School communities. Approximately a month ago, I asked staff to engage the community in determining how we could expand the Eastwood Center Elementary Magnet School program. The administration has been in dialogue with the county to release the Eastwood facility at the end of the 2012-2013 school year, pending Board of Education approval.
"As stated from the beginning, no final decisions on the instructional programs have been made, and we will continue to solicit input from the public.
"The two options, introduced at our first public meeting, were developed collaboratively by our principals, however, they are not the only options. We welcome additional options and I look forward to the final recommendations.
"I encourage the community to continue to work with the principals to find solutions that will provide the best educational environment for all children."