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School Board seeks money for new Antietam Academy

September 18, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

A Washington County Commissioner questioned Tuesday why the Board of Education was able to find money for a downtown performing arts school, but not for another project.

The remark came after Washington County Public Schools staff made a case for financial and long-term support for a new Antietam Academy.

County Commissioners said they could not commit to building a new facility right now.

"We have to prioritize what the needs and desires of this community are," Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said.

The Board of Education asked commissioners to place more than $400,000 in the fiscal year 2009 budget for planning for a new Antietam Academy. Board members also asked for a long-term commitment to build the new school.

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Aleshire asked the board why $700,000 could be used to help with costs associated with the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts in downtown Hagerstown, but not for Antietam Academy.

"Every person I've met who has walked downtown Hagerstown is excited about that school," Board Member Ruth Anne Callaham said. "So, we took $700,000 in a leap of faith to do something this county has never done before ... Now, we're saying we have another need, and I don't think anyone in this room will dispute the need. You want to pick us to death over $400,000. Fine. But take a leap of faith. Stand tall, and help the children of this community."

The new Antietam Academy would house several alternative programs that are split among the Western Heights Middle, South Hagerstown High and Washington County Technical High school campuses.

Because of space limitations at current facilities, officials said those students with behavioral problems and other special needs are being placed in classrooms with other students before they are ready, Acting Director of Student Services John Davidson said. Current Antietam Academy programs also only serve students through 10th grade.

If a new building was available, students could attend through their senior years in high school, he said.

Aleshire said there are budget limitations at the state and local level.

"None of these budgets are bottomless wells of money to provide for projects all in concert," he said.

Assistant Superintendent Boyd Michael said that the planning money for a new Antietam Academy site had been budgeted, but later was removed from the county's budget.

He said it was not financially responsible to spend $426,000 to plan for a new Antietam Academy if the project was not included in the county's budget through 2013.

"One day, this county will have a new Antietam Academy," Michael said. "They'll have to."

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