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Programs to share space

November 12, 1996

By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Staff Writer

Despite the strong disapproval of two board members, the Washington County Board of Education decided Tuesday night to close the current Washington County Job Development Center facility in Smithsburg and move the program to the Marshall Street School in Hagerstown.

School board members Robert L. Kline and B. Marie Byers voted against the move, which was originally pitched as a cost-saving measure when the school board was putting together its budget for 1995-1996.

"I think it should be delayed and thought about a little later on," said Kline, who said the programs serve two very different groups of students and should not be housed in the same building.

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The Job Development Center, which opened in 1972, provides vocational training for about 85 developmentally challenged students ages 14 to 21. The Marshall Street School, which opened in 1976, serves about 40 students with severe disabilities that keep them from participating in school-based programs.

Board President Thomas Berry, Vice President Doris J. Nipps and member Janice T. Cirincione voted for the action, recommended by schools Superintendent Wayne F. Gersen based on a steering committee's feasibility study.

Under the plan, which will require about $300,000 in renovations to the Marshall Street School building, the two programs will share the 44,000-square-foot building starting next fall, but will remain separate and distinct, Gersen said.

That was an important point, said Berry, who said he looked into that and other concerns voiced at a public hearing on the plan Oct. 15.

Berry said he was assured that air quality - a major concern of several parents of medically fragile Marshall Street School students - would be as good or better than it currently is when the renovations are completed.

Nipps said she was sensitive to the concerns voiced at the hearing as well as those she heard when visiting the two schools.

However, she said she felt the move was advisable since it would give Job Development Center students an hour more of instructional time a day and save the school board a substantial amount in transportation.

Byers said that if adding instructional time was the goal, it could be achieved by changing bus schedules.

John Bowman and John Follett, both parents of Job Development Center students, spoke against the move.

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