BOE hopefuls tackle West City school questions

October 11, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE |
  • Washington County Board of Education candidates participate in a forum at Hagerstown Community College on Thursday evening sponsored by The Herald-Mail. They are, from left, Donna Brightman, Justin Hartings, Travis Poole, Wayne Ridenour and Melissa Williams.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

What compromises they would make in the design for a new “West City” elementary school if costs continue to come in high were among the issues the five Washington County Board of Education candidates were asked during a Thursday night candidate forum in Hagerstown Community College’s Kepler Theater.

Bids to construct a new Bester Elementary School came in over budget twice.

While incumbent Wayne Ridenour said he’d like to wait and see what the costs to build the new West City school are, he’d want to make sure contingencies are in place if funding is not available and the items that are cut are ones that don’t impact kids.

Political newcomer Melissa Williams said she was against the construction of a new “West City” school. Williams said she would do what she could to rescind the decision to build the school and, instead, preserve Winter Street and Conococheague elementary schools. She said she believes in smaller community schools and believes there is research showing students attending smaller schools have greater student achievement.

Incumbent Donna Brightman said the school board needs to make sure it has a better match with needs, going forward, regarding instruction and technology, and look at the costs and benefits. She said it would make sense to meet with construction officials to see how the school system can be smarter about building schools and still deliver good instruction in a safe, secure building.

Incumbent Justin Hartings said he would cut the furniture budget or wait to put new technology in for a year, but fundamentally the school has to be built to last.

Hartings said people can’t drink the water at Conococheague Elementary and the school’s septic system is in bad shape. Hartings  said he wouldn’t criticize a past school board’s decision about the Conococheague school’s location, but he doesn’t want to leave a future school board to deal with issues down the road if the school board cuts corners and doesn’t invest in the fundamental structure of a new school that will last.

Political newcomer Travis Poole said an opportunity to save $1 million on the purchase of the land for the West City school might have been lost. Poole acknowledged that is the county government that buys school land, referring to a County Commissioners vote to buy the West City land for nearly $1.6 million, three times what the previous owner paid for the property.

Poole said he is for better communication, better dialogue, and better understanding of needs in the future.

About 25 people attended the forum, which was sponsored by The Herald-Mail. Footage from the forum will air on HMTV6, on Antietam Cable Television, starting the week of Oct. 22.

The general election is Nov. 6.

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