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Move the school board

March 23, 1999

One of the more interesting ideas presented in the plans for Hagerstown's Arts & Entertainment District is the proposal to move Hagerstown's Board of Education offices downtown. Sound preposterous? Consider these facts:

- In recent years, under the leadership of former mayor Steve Sager, the city government was able to bring the Department of Social Services and the Maryland Job Service back downtown from suburban locations. In both cases, the agencies filled buildings that had been vacant or under-utilized for decades and brought additional foot traffic downtown.

- The Board of Education offices are too small, in need of major renovation and yet, because of budget constraints and a host of other schools that need work, major upgrades to the Commonwealth Avenue complex are unlikely to happen anytime soon. Given a city building and little grant money, however, the board could have updated offices downtown.

- When the new University of Maryland campus moves to Allegheny Power's Friendship Technology Park, there'll be pressure to consolidate the offerings from Frostburg State University's downtown center there. City officials will be inclined to resist that, unless they have something to plug into that space immediately, like the school board.

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In addition to everything else, putting the school board downtown would put school officials closer to county government offices. The opportunities for joint meetings, professional and social, would be greatly enhanced.

Finally, although the plan says little about why BOE offices should be moved, we must assume that planners decided that if they were going to have a successful Arts & Entertainment District, they'd better bring in some people who appreciate the fine arts. We assume the people who work in the school system's central office are in that category, which is why this suggestion shouldn't get short shrift.

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