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Learning Center to remain open

Washington County Health System board rejects recommendation to close facility

May 12, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- A Hagerstown child care and education center will stay open, an official said Wednesday, after Washington County Health System's board of directors rejected a recommendation to close it.

The Learning Center, near City Park, will not close in August, as the health system's senior management had recommended to cut costs in the next fiscal year.

"The program's going to be fully funded next year, and we anticipate funding it into the future," Mike Zampelli, the health system's vice president for Antietam Health Services, said Wednesday.

Last week, Zampelli said senior management recommended closing the center, saving about $850,000. About 35 center employees would have lost their jobs.

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The center serves about 130 children - half in health system employees' families and half in other families. The health system pays 75 percent of the cost for its employees.

On Wednesday, Zampelli said the health system board of directors gave a clear directive to keep the center open.

Charles R. Wainwright, the center's director, sent a letter to parents saying the center will keep operating, but the health system still needs to cut costs.

"Since the financial conditions still exist that prompted the decision to close The Learning Center, our proposed budget will reflect some salary and benefit reductions, increased tuitions, as well as other program modifications," Wainwright's letter says.

But Zampelli said Wednesday the references in the letter were wrong.

He said the letter reflected possibilities for any health system program, but it was premature and incorrect to say they'd happen at The Learning Center.

A letter Wainwright sent parents last week says "the necessary steps will be taken to permanently close the Learning Center at 6:00pm Friday August 20, 2010," if the health system board approved it.

Zampelli said he was excited the center will keep offering a good educational program woven into the child care center.

He also apologized for misleading details about the center getting out. He said the health system had a plan to share information, but the plan was "circumvented" by "unilateral action." He didn't elaborate.

"I'm disappointed, and I really want to apologize for the process," he said.

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