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Job center to relocate

March 18, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

Washington County's Job Development Center - which teaches students with disabilities how to become independent and find jobs - will relocate, the Washington County Board of Education decided unanimously Tuesday.

The Job Development Center has been using the former Kemp Horn Vocational Center on Federal Lookout Road, near Smithsburg.

It will move to Hagerstown to the Marshall Street School, which houses a program for children with disabilities.

A report presented to the Washington County Board of Education Tuesday night said the move was considered in 1995 and 1996.

Principal Francis Murray said about 55 students are part of the Job Development Center this school year - 40 at the Federal Lookout Road building and 15 at Hagerstown Community College.

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He said the same number is expected next year.

A big reason for the move is convenience. Murray said some students who live in Hancock get on a bus at 6 a.m., travel for three hours, attend the program and get home at 5:30 p.m.

If the program were in Hagerstown, students might get there on their own, which is a key to mobility and happiness, Murray said.

It also might help the students find jobs, since they would be closer to Interstate 81, he said.

The move is scheduled to start in the spring.

A report explaining the move says the Job Development Center prepares students for work and independent life by teaching them "custodial services, contract assembly, food services, greenhouse and grounds keeping, basic English, citizenship and math, domestic services, physical education, work preparation and family life."

Students range from 15 to 21 years old, the report says.

Special education students at the Marshall Street School, who range from 3 to 21 years old, get "highly intensive" instruction and attention from teachers and therapists, according to the report.

Preschool and kindergarten programs from the Salem Avenue and Winter Street elementary schools have been using Marshall Street School, but those programs probably will go back to their home schools, the report says.

The report says that parents of Job Development Center and Marshall Street School students and staff agreed with the move during meetings in February.

In addition to making travel easier, the move will give Job Development Center students access to a gymnasium and a pool and will allow more teaching time during the day, the report says.

Board member Russell Williams praised the Job Development Center, which he said was great for his autistic daughter.

"She was much more in place," he said. "She was no longer the odd student walking the halls."

Speaking figuratively, Williams said he wants to make sure that when the Job Development Center moves, "nothing gets broken."

Board member Paul Bailey said he's glad the situation will be resolved after so many years.

"For far too long, this has been up in the air," he said.

Board member Jacqueline Fischer said the current Job Development Center building might make a good kindergarten, first-grade and second-grade school for Smithsburg-area students.

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