Panel Meets Again On Racial Balancing Final Action Is Expected On June 12 In The Cheltenham District.

Posted: May 24, 1995

CHELTENHAM — The school district's Educational Affairs Committee met last night to recommend a plan on racially balancing the district's four elementary schools.

The heavily attended meeting came after two months of emotionally charged meetings at which parents, employees and school board members voiced their opinions on the issue. Final action is likely at the board's June 12 meeting.

Only two options were on the table: redistricting, and racially balancing each entering class beginning with the kindergarten class in 1995-96.

The issue stemmed from some Glenside Elementary School parents' concern about the quality of education their children are receiving because of the varying academic levels of the other students.

Some parents suggested that racism against children living in the Lynnewood Gardens apartment complex was behind the Glenside parents' complaints.

But other parents, black and white, said that most of those students are testing below their grade level, putting a burden on teachers who have to teach all pupils.

Thomas R. Stretton, assistant superintendent of the Cheltenham School District, said that a change was warranted after comparing Glenside's minority numbers with those of the other elementary schools - Myers, Cheltenham and Wyncote.

According to district figures, minorities - largely blacks and Asian Americans - make up 51 percent of Glenside's 413 students; 22 percent of Myers' 536; 34 percent of Cheltenham's 558; and 40 percent of Wyncote's 378.

Overall, 36 percent of the district's total 1,885 elementary students - or 679, are minorities.

According to guidelines from the state Human Relations Commission, the minority percentage of each school should be between 24 percent and 48 percent. By that standard, Glenside and Myers are out of compliance.

Throughout the discussion, in which hundreds of people have attended meetings, many board members noted the space constraints at Myers, Wyncote and Cheltenham complicate the situation.

. Parent Angie Baum, a Laverock resident who has one child in Glenside told the board: "Glenside has for too long shouldered the responsibility for students who require additional learning support. Right now, the four elementary schools are in a state of disequilibrium that has created an insidious, unhealthy climate."

Peter Denitz, of Elkins Park, who has a child at Myers, said the board is making a decision too quickly.

"What we see here is that there is still a lot we don't know. The whole situation has been cast in one dimension - tradeoff and implied conflict between Glenside and Myers."

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