When young Martin Cramer started school at Montgomery County's Tuckerman Elementary five years ago, he never dreamed he would face the upsetting prospect of attending three different schools in the first seven years of his career.
But then Cramer did not know about declining enrollments and inflation and their effects on schols. His first school, Tuckerman, was closed in 1978. Now, the school to which he transferred, Georgetown Hill Elementary, is slated to shut down, meaning he probably will have to attend a third school before moving on to junior high.
Georgetown Hill was one of three schools added to a revised list of 31 recommended this week for closing by School Superintendent Edward Andrews. This latest list is part of a master plan to guide the school system as it undertakes the largest and most disruptive program of closings in the county's history: 31 schools in the next five years.
The plan also adds Francis Scott Key Junior High and Connecticut Park Elementary to the list of proposed closings. Three elementary schools -- Bells Mill, Kemp Mill and Olney -- previsoulsy recommended for closure were reprieved.
Faced with inflation and a student population that has dropped from a high of 126,000 in 1972 to a projected 95,000 this year, Andrews announced the plan this week, saying that it "is crucial to the success of the Montgomery County school system."
The superintendent said the closing will save $33.6 millio9n inoperating costs during the next five years, eliminate capital expenditure that would cost taxpayers $102.2 million over the next 15 years and enable the school system to return land valued at $13.2 million to the county for other uses.
The money saved may enable the school board to make all-day kindergarten classes available in all elementary schools and restore the seven-period day in high schools, giving students a choice of instruction in more subjects.
Despite Andrews' promise that improvements will come with the closings, the prospect of losing neighborhood schools has galvanized the affluent and well-educated parents of Montgomry even more than other issues in this county known for its activism. "It usually becomes a rallying point," said school board member Marian Greenblatt. "Suddenly their school is the best one in Montgomery County and just can't be closed."
A preliminary list of 34 schools, including three junior high schools that since have been closed, was proposed last May. Then school officials, for the first time since they began shutting shcools in 1973, allowed the public to submit alternatives to the preliminary plan. A task force of school officials then reviewed 71 proposals from community groups and came up with the revised list. It has pleased some, but incensed others who believed their schools were going to be spared.
"It makes you feel that you can't trust anybody," said Elizabeth Hart, former PTA president for the Connecticut Park area. "As soon as you think the dust has settled somebody stabs you in the back.
Martin Cramer's mother, Doris, who lives in Inverness Forest, feared that the process would only heighten tensions between parents and students of different schools. "I resent a system that pits one school against the next to survive," she said. "It's going to prolong conflicts . . . and may arouse hostility."
She said her 10-year-old son's probable enrollment in three different elementary schools is "upsetting. When Tuckerman closed, the children were very angry."
Andrews expects strident debate during public hearings in October on the recommendations. The school board will deliberate in November, then adopt a final plan.
The Montgomery closings follow a national trend caused by declining enrollments, according to education officials. The nation's public school enrollment, which peaked in the post-World War II baby boom period, has fallen from a high of about 46 million in 1971 to about 41 million last fall, according to Department of Education statistics.
School officials said the transitiions caused by the closings will be eased by moving students along with their teachers to new schools. The closures are not expected to cause layoffs because officials will work to find new jobs for those affected.
The superintendent's final recommendations are as follows:
June 1982: Arcola, Ayrlawn, Bradley, Brookmont, ybrookview, Congressional, Forest Grove, Four Corners, Georgian Forest, Georgetown Hill, Kensington, Lake Normandy, Lone Oak,Lynnbrook, Montrose, Oak View, Rock Creek Palisades, Rollingwood, West Rockville, and Woodside elementaries. Newport Junior High.
June 1983: Cloverly, Connecticut Park, Harmony Hills, Rocking Horse Road elementaries. Belt and ytakoma Park Junior Highs.
June 1984: Barnsley Elementary. Northwood Senior High.
June 1985: Francis Scott Key Junior High.
June 1986: Robert E. Peary Senior High.