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Parents file lawsuit in Western Maryland school dispute

CUMBERLAND — Some parents in eastern Allegany County are suing the local school board to prevent their children from having to switch schools.

The lawsuit filed Friday in Allegany County Circuit Court is the latest twist in a dispute over inter-county school attendance. It involves students from Little Orleans, who have been allowed for 10 years to attend school in the nearby Washington County town of Hancock instead of in the more distant Allegany County city of Cumberland.

The Allegany school board voted in June to phase out the agreement for financial reasons. The first phase would affect about 20 students who completed up to eighth grade last year in Hancock. Another 18 students who completed ninth, 10th or 11th grades would continue to attend school in Hancock.

Cumberland attorney Jason Buckel, representing the parents group Save Orleans Students, told the Cumberland Times-News Tuesday that state law encourages keeping students in schools close to their communities, even if they must cross county lines. Buckel said he hopes for a hearing before school starts Aug. 24.

School board President Gary Hanna said the board’s lawyer was studying the complaint.

The parents also have asked the Maryland State Board of Education to overturn the school board’s decision ending the inter-county arrangement. Their appeal is not on the state school board’s Aug. 30 meeting agenda.