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mail editorial - 12/26/01

December 27, 2001

Overly blunt remarks contains kernel of truth



Washington County Commissioner John Schnebly ruffled some feathers earlier this month when he questioned the credibility of the Blue Ribbon Redistricting Committee's decision not to replace two aging elementary schools with a new combined facility. We appreciate his concern for economy, but given the many tasks the committee was given to accomplish in five months, a full study of the matter was impossible.

That said, Schnebly's choice of words was unfortunate. To say that the committee's members "can't be objective because they have no financial stake in paying the bills" ignores their roles as taxpayers and as citizens concerned not only for their own children, but also with how education affects local economic development and the quality of life.

What he probably wishes he'd said is that it's easier to give in to the sentimental attachment that parents have to their children's schools when you don't have to vote for higher taxes to keep a larger number of schools open. And he also might also have said that the advantages of a new, combined facility - like better computer facilities, for example - would be an educational benefit.

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We have two recommendations. The first is that the School Board do a serious study of Maugansville and Conococheague elementary schools.

To expect a panel named in August to make a recommendation on that issue by December, on top of everything else it faced, was ridiculous. A new study that looks at - among other things - future growth, bus travel times and the pros and cons of larger versus smaller schools - should be done prior to any final decision on renovation or new construction.

Our second recommendation is that those on the educational side of the equation recognize that, especially in the current economy, there is not an endless supply of money. What Schnebly is advocating - perhaps a little too bluntly - is that saving money in the facilities budget will make more of it available for classroom instruction.

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