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School board meets with state lawmakers

September 20, 1997

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer

Funding for school improvement projects has decreased over the years, hurting the school system's ability to modernize classrooms and prepare them for the growth that's expected to come, school officials told local lawmakers Friday.

State lawmakers met with the Washington County Board of Education in Hagerstown to determine the school system's needs.

Although state legislators do not control the funding to local schools, school board members wanted state lawmakers to realize what they are experiencing.

The Washington County Commissioners, who provide funding for schools, had been setting aside up to $5 million annually for capital imporvement projects in the school system, school officials said.

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In recent years, the amount has only been about $2.5 million, school officials said.

Board of Education President B. Marie Byers compared Washington County to Charles County, which has about the same number of students. Both counties have about 20,000 students, but Charles County's school budget is about $10 million higher, Byers said.

"That's a lot of difference. It buys a lot of computers and a lot of teaching time," said Byers.

There has not been a lot of student growth in the county in recent years, which gives the district a good opportunity to upgrade older, crowded schools in the system, school officials said.

"Frederick County is going to get full and it's going to move this way," said board member Robert L. Kline.

Del. Louise Snodgrass, R-Frederick-Washington, questioned how the Board of Education can communicate its concerns when the commissioners have no liasion on the Board of Education.

The only request Board of Education members made to lawmakers was how two new seats on the board will be staggered. The state passed a law increasing the board's membership from five to seven members. The two seats will be filled during next November's election, which is when Byers, Kline and board member Doris J. Nipps will face re-election.

Board members want an amendment to the state law saying the top three vote-getters will serve four-year terms and the other two will serve two-year terms.

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