Hancock residents react to school closure reasoning; town leaders call on federal help to keep school open

by Geoff Fox

After the news broke regarding the FEAC’s decision to recommendation to close Hancock High School, response on social media was harsh regarding the decision.

Some local people said they were considering home schooling their kids or looking to enroll their children in a private school in Warfordsburg rather than having them bused to Clear Spring if Hancock’s school closes.

The main concern voiced was the feeling the committee was not looking at what is best for the students.

“There is no way these 13 members of this Advisory Panel is thinking of the safety of the students,” Tina Younker said in a post on the “Hancock, Maryland” Facebook page. “This is not in the best interest or safety of the students, but of course it’s Hancock so they’ll do it.”

Timothy Trembly said with all the stress people have on their shoulders now, WCPS is going to add the closure.

“I hold these 10 members accountable for any problems that may cause our family and all the other families that need to add this to our plate,” he said.

One person was afraid of what could happen to students in a bigger school.

“I know if they do go to bigger schools chances are they will get bullied and that’s honestly so sad they want to get rid of Hancock,” said Brooke Dunlaney.

The comment was in reply to a comment by Tina Mills Spears made regarding the fact one of the people voting in favor of closing Hancock High School was from Hancock.

Having possible magnet programs at Hancock High School has been a constant argument from Hancock officials since discussions about closing the school surfaced a few years ago.

In a response to the question if the closing was a done deal, committee member Lura Norris replied it wasn’t and the committee only makes recommendations with the final decision resting on the school board.

Norris argued that her support of the closure recommendation had nothing to do with the fact she teaches in Hagerstown nor the fact her children either go with her or attend magnet programming.

On the Facebook page “Hancock MD Save Our School,” comments responding to a post of the video with the decision being voted on, Amanda Younker noted the main argument brought forth was the students at Hancock High School don’t have access to the same AP classes as other Washington County schools.

She pointed out that for the last year, students have been using Zoom and other outlets for distance learning due to the pandemic.

“So now Hancock students could use that app to have special AP classes right?” she asked.

She also said football was another argument that came from the meeting.

Hancock has had a small turnout for recent teams and it was noted during the meeting it was a health issue by having 15 players on the team.

However, in other parts of the country, notably in Texas, there are schools that play “Iron Man football” with the minimum 11 players and players playing offense and defense.

“If the students are not complaining then why are you?” Younker asked.

Other community members reported they have called and written to members of the Washington County Board of Education to convince them not to take the facilities’ committee’s recommendation.

Community leader Debbie Cohill extended an offer to have staff at the Interfaith Service Coalition help anyone type, fax or email their thoughts about the school’s future in order to get those messages to members of the school board in the coming days.

Hancock teacher Marsha Flowers encouraged community members to be informed about the data and reports being used by the committee and county school system to weigh the future operation of Hancock’s schools.

She pointed out that there are hundreds of pages of minutes from the FEAC meetings that can be viewed on their committee’s page on the county school website.

Federal reps tapped for help

Mayor Ralph Salvagno sent a letter to Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin as well as Representative David Trone about the possible closure.

In the letter, Salvagno requested their assistance in protecting “one of our most valuable economic and social assets” — Hancock Middle-Senior High School.

As part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Act, $122.7 billion was provided for education.

Of that money, $1.7 billion will be used in Maryland to be allocated on a formula basis to each of the 24 local school systems.

“The purpose of the American Rescue Act is to compensate for losses associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and, most importantly, to stimulate the economy of the affected areas,” Salvagno said.

He said the Senate included new set-asides to require state education agencies to pay for afterschool programs, summer enrichment programs and programs on the state and local level to address learning loss.

Community schools, Salvagno said, are a critical part of the economic lifeblood of a small town.

That money set aside for programs cannot benefit the children of Hancock without the high school remaining open. The mayor argued.

“Certainly, here in Hancock, much of the town’s identity is tied to our Hancock Middle/Senior High School,” he said. “Unfortunately, it appears that our Washington County Board of Education does not recognize the economic and social importance of our community school.”

Salvagno told both senators and representative Hancock needs their voices and their help.