The process to close Golden Ring Middle School officially began Tuesday, years after the Baltimore County Public Schools system decided it would be replaced and months after the start of a redistricting process that proposed moving all the kids out of the building.

During the redistricting process, the system said Golden Ring would be repurposed but offered little to explain what that means. School system officials would not answer specific questions about whether the Rosedale school was closing or what would happen to its staff if it did, and parents said they weren’t told that could happen. A spokesperson for the system said Wednesday that it’s too early in the process to determine if all staff will be transferred to the new school.

District leaders told the school board Tuesday night that a September 2020 capital improvement program proposed a new middle school to replace Golden Ring. The new, larger school is slated to open in the 2024-25 school year will be located about three miles from Golden Ring on King Avenue in Rosedale.

Board policy states the next steps for the closure is to have a public hearing, followed by a decision by the board. However, the district has operated as if the middle school’s fate has already been determined.

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Board member Rod McMillion said at Tuesday’s meeting he was upset about the timing of the closure process. He said the board discussed closing Golden Ring a few years ago because a new middle school was coming along.

“Then we don’t talk about it for a long time,” he said. “Why wasn’t that talked about a while ago?”

It wasn’t until the redistricting process, which started in January, that the community heard the school will be repurposed, he said.

Fellow member Julie Henn said she was also concerned about the communication. She said Golden Ring being replaced by the new school was announced during a 2017 board meeting. Funding for the new school was delayed, she added, which may have led to some confusion and lack of communication.

Part of the issue, she added, is that parents of the elementary school students that feed into Golden Ring were not informed and board policy doesn’t say they have to be.

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The policy, as well as the Code of Maryland Regulations, does state that the public will have a say on whether the school should close, but school officials seem to have already decided.

Pete Dixit, the system’s Department of Facilities Management and Strategic Planning executive director, said whenever the system designs a school, it’s to improve the environment of the existing and additional students. He said they made clear through the Multi-Year Improvement Plan for All Schools process what was happening with Golden Ring.

“There was never in our mind any gap in communication,” he said, adding that the system is complying with board policy.

The first communication current Golden Ring parents received about a “potential” closure was a mid-March letter from Dixit and the principal. It noted that there was a process in place to close the school, which, at the time, had not started yet.

Myriam Yarbrough, the deputy superintendent, and Superintendent Darryl Williams said they appreciate the board members’ feedback about communication and will make sure the school community receives information about the process moving forward.

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“Some of that communication was prior to my arrival,” Williams said.

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