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School Board to study move

April 12, 2000|By JULIE E. GREENE

The Washington County Board of Education may become an active participant in trying to determine whether its administrative offices should be moved to downtown Hagerstown.

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After months of talks about the idea among community and business leaders, none of whom have approached the full School Board on the topic, board member B. Marie Byers suggested Tuesday that the board conduct a feasibility study.

It must be determined whether such a move would be efficient, Byers said Wednesday.

A study should address several issues, including space and parking requirements, which offices would move downtown and how offices remaining at the Commonwealth Avenue headquarters would be supervised, Byers said Tuesday night.

Byers said she'd like a study to be completed by July 1. She plans to bring the issue up again at next Tuesday's board meeting.

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A majority of school board members reached Wednesday said they agree with Byers' request for a feasibility study to be conducted in-house.

"I think it puts the board in the loop of players involved in the decision making," said Paul W. Bailey, School Board president.

The idea of moving the administrative offices downtown has been discussed for at least 10 years. It picked up momentum last August after State Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, wrote to Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, saying the move would fit well with the state's Smart Growth initiative. Munson and community leaders said the move could help revitalize downtown by bringing to the area 150 to 200 professionals who could eat and shop downtown.

School Board member Herbert J. Hardin said, however, that many of the administrative professionals are at schools during the day and wouldn't be downtown for lunch and shopping.

"I personally cannot see the Washington County Board of Education locating everything downtown," Hardin said.

Even moving only the top administrators downtown doesn't seem practical, Hardin said.

With the current centralized location, it's easy for administrators to get to board meetings, said School Board member Doris J. Nipps.

Despite concerns about parking, space and safety, Hardin, Bailey and Nipps said the feasibility study is a good idea.

"We have not really been an integral part of any planning at all, which has really been a disappointment. I'd prefer we do any kind of study or plan before outside agencies do it for us," Hardin said.

The Greater Hagerstown Committee set up a task force about three weeks ago to coordinate a proposal to move the educational administrative offices downtown, Committee Chairman James Latimer said.

That group hasn't met to establish goals, Latimer said. He said a feasibility study by the School Board would be a great step.

An ad hoc committee organized by County Administrator Rodney Shoop earlier this year to come up with a project cost, schedule and funding sources for state officials met twice, said Bailey, a member of the committee.

Bailey said the panel has quit meeting because funding isn't currently available for the project.

School board members Edwin Hayes, Mary Wilfong and Andrew Humphreys could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

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