The following letter was addressed to the Garrett County Board of Education in response to restructuring proposals that included realigning grades and possible school consolidations.
I have 2 major objections to the proposed plans.
The first is the consideration of combining schools to create a 2 tier educational system with grades k-6 in elementary school and grades 7-12 in high school. What evidence do you have to support such a split? How can you suggest that 7th graders, children 12 and 13 years of age, are ready for high school? The maturity level is not there, even in the best of students. Children at this level need guidance and direction. Their minds and bodies are changing; they are becoming individuals and will begin to make their own decisions during this time. Middle school is key to our mental preparation as an adult. To throw these children into the high school would be doing a great disservice to the future of this county.
As mentioned earlier, I would like to see what evidence you have to support such a change. If you look abroad, Finland is known to have the world’s best educational system. The divide their children into three tiers with elementary being grades 1-6, secondary consisting of grades 7-9, and tertiary completing the last 3 years with grades 10-12. Japan and many other high ranking schools do the same. Why would we take a step backwards? In the 1950s and 1960s, Garrett County had a junior-senior high school with grades 7 and 8 included. There were reasons for the creation of the middle schools 50 years ago, why do you choose to ignore it now? The world today is vastly different than it was then and middle school children are at such a vulnerable age that we need to protect them.
My second concern is the proposed combined high school. I just do not believe that you have looked at the long term effects of this. What are the projected transportation costs that will be needed to bus these children to school? Have you considered the impact this would put on the families of students who wish to participate in extra-curricular activities? (or is this just your way of stopping support of them as well) We currently live less than 10 miles from our elementary school and my 6 year old is on the bus for over an hour each way. How will consolidation affect this? I grew up here and I remember the struggle of my parents trying to coordinate rides to sports and activities. A centralized school would be further away and less convenient for working parents. Have you talked to parents in Preston County? I have, and very few support the one school system. Parents have had to sacrifice after school activities and children are participating in non-school sponsored activities more and more. Less school sponsored activities leads to less school and community pride.
Over the years, many people have relocated or returned to Garrett County and a primary reason is the great public schools. By changing our school system, you will damage one of the few things that draw people to the area. We have a large population of home schooled children in the area. Have you taken an interest in those families and tried to figure out why they choose to not send their children to school? I can guarantee that the re-arrangement of school levels and further consolidation of schools will force more parents to home school.
We were promised years ago that the closing of Kitzmiller and Bloomingtom Elementary schools would balance our budget. What has changed? Were you wrong? What is the long term look out for our schools? We need to be financially responsible to ensure our great schools remain great, but we should not be tempted by short term, easy fixes.
Thank you for listening-