To close a projected energy budget shortfall of nearly $1.5 million, county school officials are recommending cutting bus services for vocation students and teen-age mothers.
But school board members were dubious Monday night when proposals were introduced to eliminate bus service for the "Teen Mom" program at Meade High School -- saving an estimated $17,000 -- and to drop early-morning express buses for students in vocational-technical education programs. No figures on savings were released for the vocation school buses.
Vocational classes begin at 7:15 a.m., while those at other county high schools begin at 7:30 a.m. The schedule is designed to allow enough travel time so vocational students can return to their regular schools in time for 8:30 a.m. second-period classes, said Thomas Miller, director of Vocational Technical.
"I'm in favor of saving money where we can, but if Dr. Miller is telling us that the program starts at 7:15, why wasn't someone from his staff approached?" said board vice president Jo Ann Tollenger. "Are we just making arbitrary decisions or are we talking to the people who will be affected?
"I am not going to support anything that will jeopardize programs that are already working," Tollenger said.
The plan to eliminate bus service for teen-age mothers and their babies -- which was vetoed by the county health department when the program started last year -- also alarmed board members. Teen parents, who are already identified by the school system as being "at risk" of dropping out of school, would be required to use public transportation.
The health department is among the agencies financing the program, which started as a pilot project with 15 Meade students.
School Superintendent Larry L. Lorton said his staff will reconsider the effects of cuts on students before further action is taken.
"It's not going anywhere if it negatively impacts on programs," Lorton said.
Despite the board's opposition to some of the cost-saving measures, budget and support services staff members are continuing their search for cost-cutting measures in response to spiraling gasoline prices and continued uncertainty in the Persian Gulf. School officials have already been told not to expect budget help from county government.
"When the issue came up and we found that we were $1.5 million in the hole, we got together and went down to the county government," budget officer Jack White told board members. "We were asked to do the best we can to balance it within our own budget.
"They said that we shouldn't expect help from them. That's why we have recommendations for things that may be distasteful, but we are doing everything we can to minimize that."
School officials also recommended lowering temperature levels to 70 degrees for special schools, 68 degrees in elementary schools, 65 degrees in secondary schools and 55 in unoccupied areas, which would save an estimated $150,000.
Other recommendations include:
* Consolidation of high school bus routes and contracted services for special education.
* Eliminate third shift custodians.
* Limit the use of school buildings in the summer.
* Investigate the use of solar energy.
* Substitute cold water products for cleaning.
The county schools, with a budget of $330 million, allocated $1.6 million for fuel oil.