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Parents angry over plan for elementary school

Posted: Sunday, January 31, 2010

Parents of pupils attending Bel Air Elementary School weren't happy last week at news that the county plans to eventually shut it down.

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A proposal to close Bel Air Elementary and sell the site was made during a Wednesday meeting with school board officials during discussions of a 1 percent sales tax referendum likely going before voters July 20.

The referendum calls for rebuilding as many as eight schools within this decade.

The reaction among many parents waiting to pick up their children from Bel Air Elementary on Wednesday afternoon largely was negative.

"I'd hate to see it close," said Rich Hroblak, whose two sons attend first and fifth grades at the school. "It's been here for so long. It's just a part of (the area)."

The Evans school is at 325 N. Belair Road and was built in 1968.

Bel Air would close after new, larger schools are built at the sites of Martinez and Evans elementary schools. The pupils at Bel Air Elementary would be rezoned to attend those two new schools.

The Evans and Martinez schools could open by 2012 and 2014, respectively, and would cost up to $12.5 million to build.

The Bel Air property then would be sold to help fund $148.6 million in school system construction projects.

Principal Mark Boyd did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The proposal to close Bel Air Elementary came as a surprise to Randy Preachers, whose five children attended the school.

His son is a first-grader and his daughter is in the fifth grade.

"I don't think they should," he said. "This has been a good school."

Preachers said he sees nothing wrong with the way the school is now.

"I'd hate to see it go," he said. "This school has been here forever."

Not all parents were as calm. Some expressed outrage.

Robin Kearney cited the school's educational program and excellent teachers as reasons why Bel Air shouldn't close.

"I feel that my child is safe at this school, and the teachers are good," said Kearney, whose daughter is a first-grader.

Jocelyn Hunter, who has a grandson in the first grade, and Chiana Beard, whose daughter also is in the first grade, felt the same way.

"The teachers are great," Beard said. "If you close this school down, where are the teachers going to go?"

For Monica Austin, the school has become a home away from home for her son, who has been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a type of autism.

When the fourth-grader started attending Bel Air, Austin said he wanted to go to school every day -- even when he was sick.

"This school has been amazing," she said. "They've just been a huge blessing to our family."



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