With an $8 million budget deficit staring them in the face, school officials have ordered an end to overtime for school custodians -- effectively eliminating after-school activities sponsored by outside organizations.
"At this point, all after-school activities are canceled," Belvedere Elementary Principal Donald Smith said. "Usually, custodians are called in for security and to clean up after events."
He said school-sponsored activities do not require extra custodians, since an administrator must be present for those events.
The Belvedere principal said he received orders at 4 p.m. Tuesday to eliminate custodial overtime. Parents were told of the order during a Parent-Teacher Association meeting later that night.
"I got mixed reactions from people," he said. "Some were very upset. In this area, kids are involved in a lot of activities."
Smith said he is considering asking parents to volunteer in place of custodians.
"There are liability issues that have to be answered," he said. "I don't have those answers."
Belvedere had after-school programs running seven days a week, including Girl Scout, Boy Scout and Cub Scout groups. The Mago Vista Athletic Association is one of the largest groups affected, with sports for elementary through high school students running every evening.
"We just spent $3,000 on new basketball uniforms that won't be used," Ron Keyes, chairman of the association, said. "Unfortunately, this was going to be our biggest basketball season. I just don't think saving this overtime pay and the little bit of money for people who stay at the school for security is saving a great deal.
"It seems the consequences are greater than saving a few dollars," he added. "The kids are just going to be home watching TV."
Keyes said he knows of no facilities on the Broadneck peninsula other than schools that can be used for his group's activities. He said the cutbacks also will hamper neighboring organizations having similar arrangements with Windsor Farm Elementary and Severn River Junior and Magothy River Middle schools.
"There are about 700 kids from the Greater Arnold Recreation group and about 600 from Cape St. Claire Athletic Associations," he said.
Keyes said he is planning to meet with school and county officials from the Department of Parks and Recreation to determine if a compromise can be reached.
School board members will meet in a special session Monday night to hash out recommendations from school Superintendent Larry L. Lorton for other budget cuts. However, Lorton said yesterday that he is steering away from touching programs that directly affect students.
"There are tons of things I have recommended to the Board of Education, much of which have some implications for our hiring practices," he said.
"Virtually no area of the budget has not been looked at.
"My approach has been to leave anything that has a negative impact on the direct instruction of children to absolutely the last resort," he said.
"We will look at everything else on the budget prior to reaching that point."
Lorton said he hopes to avoid layoffs, but resource teachers, who train other teachers, may find themselves back in the classroom.
Among those moves board members will consider Monday night are cutting $1 million from the $2.7 million budget for materials and supplies, reducing the salary budget by $2 million by limiting overtime, and reassigning resource teachers -- specifically those on assignment at the Staff Development Training Center in Gambrills -- to fill vacancies remaining open because of the hiring freeze.
The center has a staff of 31 resource teachers, all qualified to return to the classroom.
To conserve energy, all public school offices will be closed Dec. 26-28 to those 12-month employees who would normally report to work on those days.
Lorton said the overspending resulted from outlays of $2 million over budget for high energy costs, $1 million extra for county special education students attending special schools outside the area and $5 million more than planned for salaries.
He added that the addition of 1,100 students above enrollment projections required the board to hire 10 additional teachers and 20 instructional assistants.