School Board unsure of grants

December 23, 2002|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Washington County Board of Education officials told state lawmakers Friday that they're uncertain about the funding of 41 grants, including grants that pay for an early childhood center that opened last year and improvements to gifted and talented education.

School officials said that 11 of the grants may not be funded next school year. Funding for 30 others have yet to be determined.

Members of the Washington County Delegation to the General Assembly met with the School Board Friday morning.

Lawmakers have said the state is in a financial crisis and they anticipate a struggle to balance the fiscal year 2004 budget. State officials have said they expect a $1.8 billion shortfall for that fiscal year.


School officials said they think money provided through the Thornton Commission legislation approved in the last General Assembly session may fund many of the grants, but that there are other grants that will not be part of that funding.

School officials said it's too early to tell which programs may or may not receive the money from the state, but that it's likely some will not.

The legislation calls for annual increases in state funding for public education.

Washington County Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Patricia Abernethy said Friday afternoon the future may be bleak for certain programs if the funding isn't available.

"What happens? In all truthfulness, I don't know," Abernethy said.

She said some programs may be cut without the grants.

"Absolutely. It is certainly possible that programs could be lost," Abernethy said. "With every program lost, the students lose a service."

One of the programs in jeopardy is the Judith P. Hoyer Family Learning Center, which opened last year and is aimed at preparing youngsters for kindergarten.

The center, at Bester Elementary School, also provides support services for families and adult education and literacy services. Another center is at the Washington County Family Center. Both are funded through a $646,677 state grant.

School and state officials last year heralded the center as an opportunity to boost the successes of students early on, which will help them maintain that success throughout their educational careers.

Four elementary schools in the City of Hagerstown may also lose HotSpots funding, money that targets schools whose children are at risk for exposure to drugs and academic failures, according to School Board documents.

Bester, Fountaindale, Winter Street and Eastern elementary schools share $54,577 in HotSpots grants to fund instructional materials and salaries of temporary teachers and instructional assistants.

School Board documents state gifted and talented grants, totaling $118,400, may also go without state funding next school year. Those grants are geared toward improving gifted and talented instruction for students in kindergarten through 12th grades and improving and increasing student enrollment and successes in advanced placement courses.

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