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BOE facilities committee to tour former Job Development Center building

August 23, 2010|By JULIE E. GREENE

SMITHSBURG -- The Washington County Board of Education's Facilities Committee members will have the option Tuesday morning to tour the building that once housed the Job Development Center program.

School board and committee member Donna Brightman requested the tour during the committee's June meeting because the building had become a "hot topic" among school board members.

There also has been recent interest in the building on Federal Lookout Road south of Smithsburg.

A person interested in an after-school autism program has toured the building at least twice in the past six months or so, Deputy Schools Superintendent Boyd Michael said Monday.

Other interest has been expressed in the building during the last several years, including use as a community center and interest by Kemp Horn, Michael said.

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The Job Development Center program moved to Marshall Street School in Hagerstown's West End in 2004, according to Herald-Mail archives. The program serves vocational training needs of special-needs students.

The Smithsburg-area building is used to store furniture and records the school system must keep but doesn't need on a daily basis, Michael said.

The building has minimal heating and cooling, Michael said.

The building is basically mothballed, but the school board has maintained it for "what if" possibilities, Michael said.

Two of those are if the school board decides to mandate prekindergarten, or if enrollment grows but budget woes increase so enrollment has to be shifted to the eastern part of the county instead of building new schools, he said.

There is no specific plan for the building, which is a valuable piece of property, Michael said.

School board member Ruth Anne Callaham, who is chairwoman of the board's Policy Committee, said she believed a proposed revision to the board's policies regarding alternate uses of school facilities arose due to board members discussing the former Job Development Center building. There was some question about using a school building for storage, she said.

The board's policy allows for storage as a use, according to policy documents.

The one-page reference to this particular policy is in the process of being changed to just one paragraph. The school board voted 7-0 during the its Aug. 17 first reading to change the policy. The board must vote a second time to adopt the new policy wording.

The proposed change states that the school board recognizes its responsibility, under state law, to transfer facilities no longer used for school purposes to the Washington County Commissioners. It also states that retaining ownership of vacated facilities might be prudent if long-range population studies or long-term facilities planning suggest possible future uses for the properties.

Michael said he thought it was a coincidence that the alternative uses policy came up for revision as the building had become a hot topic among board members. The committee has been reviewing older policies.

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