Eastwood school to close
Wednesday, 12 December 2012 11:25

photo by Roland Dorsey

Eastwood school to close; students to move to realigned Norwood and
Holabird schools

by Nicole Rodman

Baltimore County Public Schools officials announced plans to reorganize three local schools during a meeting at Holabird Middle School on Monday night.
    The changes will go into effect next school year and affect students at Eastwood Elementary Magnet School, Norwood Elementary School and Holabird Middle School.
    During the meeting, attended by school system personnel but no county officials, deputy superintendent Kevin Hobbs announced plans to close the Eastwood Elementary building at the end of the school year. The building will be sold to Baltimore County.          
    While Hobbs was quick to note that no decisions had been made regarding future use of the Eastwood building, a press release issued Tuesday morning revealed this to be false [see story on page 1].
    In the release, county officials noted that Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is now seeking proposals from parties interested in purchasing the North Point Government Center.
    If the government center property is sold, North Point Police Precinct 12 will be relocated from the center to a renovated Eastwood Elementary site.
    “Anyone who has visited the North Point Police Precinct knows that this is very exciting news for the police officers who work in Dundalk,” Police Chief Jim Johnson commented in the release, adding, “I look forward to the first roll call at the new facility.”
    Funds from the sale of the government center and the Eastwood Elementary building will go to fund one-time capital projects for southeast area schools.
    Among these projects would be installation of air conditioning and new technology in schools.
    Hobbs also stressed the fact that the Eastwood magnet program is not ending; rather, it is relocating to Norwood Elementary and Holabird Middle schools.
    During Monday night’s meeting, school officials presented two options to parents that would involve consolidating the Eastwood, Norwood and Holabird programs into the Norwood and Holabird buildings.
    The plans were developed by the principals at the three schools — Julie Dellone of Holabird, Pat Goldys of Norwood and Cheryl Brooks of Eastwood.
    Under Plan A, Eastwood, Holabird and Norwood would merge to become one school housed in two buildings.
    The new school — Holabird STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Academy — would consist of a lower school (grades pre-kindergarten through grade three) housed at Norwood Elementary and an upper school (grades four through eight) housed at Holabird.
    The Holabird STEM Academy would become a community-based magnet program focusing on instructing students in science and math.
    Plan B involves merging Holabird and Eastwood into one STEM magnet school housing grades kindergarten through grade eight.
    Norwood would become a STEM focused school (not a magnet school) and retain their pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students.
    Both plans would involve adding more technological resources to both school buildings.
    The reorganization comes amidst a decision by Baltimore County Public Schools to reevaluate money, enrollment and space issues at schools across the county.
    “The superintendent, school board and county executive are always talking about money, space and real estate,” Hobbs explained during the meeting.
    While he did say that discussions regarding the reorganization had been ongoing, Hobbs would not say how long the plan has been under consideration.
    As Hobbs noted, the age and lack of air conditioning at the Eastwood building and underenrollment at Holabird led school superintendent Dallas Dance to make the decision to consolidate the three schools.
    Currently, Eastwood operates at 91 percent capacity (191 students), while Holabird is at 60 percent (645 students) and Norwood is over capacity by 13.2 percent (610 students).
    While the schools will merge into two buildings, Hobbs stressed that the faculty and staff at each of the three schools will remain intact.
    Explaining to parents that none of the schools will be closing, just relocating, Hobbs noted, “we see this as an ‘add-on’ rather than a ‘subtract-from.’”
    For their part, the three principals seemed excited for the opportunity to revitalize the programs at their schools.
    Also on hand was Dundalk High School principal Tom Shouldice, who spoke about the benefits to students who will, one day, become students at Dundalk High.
    “Our work at the high school can’t happen without elementary and middle schools preparing students for high school,” Shouldice explained.
    Shouldice went on to detail the vision of Holabird STEM Academy, Dundalk High School and the adjacent Dundalk campus of the Community College of Baltimore County as a possible “educational engine for the community.”
    While public reaction at the meeting was mixed, many parents voiced worries that the elementary students would have a hard time mixing with the middle school students.
    Norwood principal Pat Goldys addressed these fears, noting that younger and older students would likely enter at different parts of the building and occupy separate areas of the school.
    While there are still many questions yet to be answered, and many anxious parents to assauge, Goldys assured parents that despite the changes, she and her colleagues would remain committed to their students’ educations.
    As she explained, “No matter what option is decided upon, you have four principals who will do everything to ensure that these schools are of the highest quality.”