Groups seek greater access to Washington County school facilities

April 22, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- They want more availability of school facilities, better gym space and more of it.

More than 50 area residents -- most involved with youth sports -- discussed the community's use of school facilities during a public meeting Tuesday with the Washington County Board of Education.

Board President Roxanne R. Ober said the gathering was an opportunity to hear concerns and also offer solutions for how to better serve area children and organizations who depend on the availability of school facilities.

Gymnasiums and football fields were the most discussed needs among those at the meeting Tuesday.

Assistant Superintendent for School Operations Boyd Michael said the school system received 2,564 requests to use school facilities in 2007. Those requests ranged from using a classroom one time to using a gymnasium more than 60 times in a basketball season.


Of those requests, 2,537 were approved, which was a 99 percent approval rate, Michael said. The majority of those used the facilities at no charge.

Glenn Fuscsick, with the Hub City Volleyball Club, said his group was one of the 1 percent that was not approved. He said his group was told there were no janitors available on weekends to accommodate his players.

He asked Tuesday for a "more fair" process for those who make requests.

Tom Nittinger, with the Boonsboro Boys Basketball League, said he attended the meeting to make sure his group was getting an "equal piece of the pie."

He said with so many youth leagues requesting gym space, there can be a scramble to find an adequate site for practices and games. The league uses Boonsboro Middle, and Sharpsburg, Greenbrier and Boonsboro elementary schools, Nittinger said.

"We take what we can get because there's nothing else to use," he said.

His primary concern was the need to use the Boonsboro High School gymnasium, which is rarely available, Nittinger said.

"That's the holy grail of the whole thing," he said of the high school facility. "Everyone is fighting for that chunk."

Steve Kretzer, with Smithsburg Youth Athletics Inc., said space has become even more scarce since the closure of the Fort Ritchie gymnasium.

Like other groups, Kretzer said any increase in fees associated with using the school facilities would hurt his group.

Board Member Wayne D. Ridenour said increased fees were not a reason for Tuesday's gathering. He said there are more groups and more sports using school facilities now than there was in the past.

"It's a struggle," he said. "We're trying to be receptive ... be as accommodating as we can."

Some at the meeting said the Mike Callas Stadium at North Hagerstown High School is not being used as often as they would like.

"There's a state-of-the-art facility that is for the most part sitting unused," said Scott Paddack, with the Junior Football League.

Paddack, who also is involved with the Boy Scouts of America Mason-Dixon Council, said the group raised money to use the stadium, but the bill from the school system was more than anticipated.

The bill was for $700 -- $300 more than the league believed it would be, Paddack said.

Some people at the meeting, like parent Bruce Poole, said some people in the business community might be willing to sponsor groups to use the school facilities if cost is an issue. Paddack said the additional expense was due mostly to custodial fees.

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