Columbia Commons parent Erin Anhalt

Leonardtown, MD — The turnout was light for the St. Mary’s County Board of Education public hearing on the proposed redistricting to accommodate the new Captain Walter Francis Duke Elementary School which will be opening in August in Leonardtown.

Only three people spoke: two parents who want their children to continue to attend Evergreen Elementary School and Dawn Simpson (shown, left) , the Navy’s liaison with the school system,

Simpson assured those in attendance that the Navy would continue to provide family support services no matter what school the military child attends.

Currently there is a U.S. Department of Defense family counselor assigned to Evergreen E.S.. Simpson said depending on the number of military children attending the various schools in the fall, that counselor could be shared among several schools, or if the population supported it, another counselor hired.

That issue is only one on the mind of parent Erin Anhalt, who lives in a military housing development called Columbia Commons. All of the children in that development now go to Evergreen and would be switched to Hollywood Elementary.

Although the proposal allows military families to be grandfathered at Evergreen for three years, they would have to provide their own transportation. Anhalt says that would be a hardship on working families, particularly those with only one car because a family member is deployed.

Anhalt says military families have to be transferred enough over the course of their duty and another transfer just is too much.

Maryann Granata’s child is in Pre-K at Evergreen. She said a family member moved up from Florida and into Wildewood specifically to help with after school care for the child, who now has been switched to Hollywood under the plan. She said she would like a specific hardship exception.

The committee charged with developing the plan also received a number of comments, both at meetings and by email, along the way. According to Deputy Superintendent for Schools and Operations Brad Clements many of those concerns were addressed during the committee’s multi-meeting process from October through December last year.

The proposal calls for Duke Elementary to have 546 students. One of the schools involved in the redistricting, Leonardtown Elementary, would go from overcrowded to having capacity. That’s to accommodate the families moving into the new Clark’s Run subdivision, which now is at brisk building program that expected to escalate even more in the spring.

The school board is expected to vote on the redistricting plan at their Feb. 11 meeting which starts at 9 a.m.

Contact Dick Myers at news@thebaynet.com