Outdoor School still drawing support

June 10, 1997


Staff Writer

Only five community members voiced opinions at Monday night's public hearing on the Washington County Board of Education's budget for fiscal 1998.

Most spoke in favor of keeping Clear Spring's Fairview Outdoor School in the budget.

But board members said the much-debated Outdoor School will not be eliminated next year thanks to the Washington County Commissioners approval last Tuesday of additional funds for the board's operating budget.

"This issue has been played back and forth as a political or economical football every year," said Joe Swope, of Boonsboro, who wanted the school board to investigate possible long-term funding for the program.


Brian Pollock, a recent Shippensburg University graduate, taught young children at the Outdoor School and traveled from his home near Philadelphia to express his support for the $225,000 facility.

But Hagerstown resident Jenny Gigliotti asked the school board to consider the value of "basic education," including family intervention and at-risk student services, before supporting more "popular programs."

Those programs have been sliced from the budget, but school board President B. Marie Byers said she supports putting those funds back in the budget "to address the needs for the classroom."

The board's staff proposed on Monday 14 items to be reinstated in its 1998 draft budget after the County Commissioners had transferred about $1.1 million more into the board's operating budget from about $2.1 million designated for only one-year expenses.

Those restored items include the Outdoor School, $170,000 for technology improvements, $300,000 for six additional buses, and more personnel, all of which had been either eliminated or isolated from the budget as one-time, non-recurring projects.

"We cited several areas in the one-time expense areas that we felt really belonged in the budget," said Schools Superintendent Wayne F. Gersen. "This is the staff's judgment after listening to feedback from the board members and community."

This shift also guarantees the board at least $3,000 in additional funding for its 1998-1999 budget under the state maintenance of effort law.

"This opened up a lot of opportunities for us," Gersen said.

The school board was forced to make several deep cuts in school programs and personnel when the County Commissioners funded the education budget at $51.2 million, about $2.1 million less than what the board had requested in March for its proposed $104 million budget.

The board's staff still had to propose about $2.5 million in cuts in the operating budget, in areas like legal fees, elementary school teacher and guidance counselor salaries, instructional materials and school/family liaison services.

The board will approve its final budget today at 7:30 p.m. during its business meeting in the Board of Education auditorium.

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