Joint Use Of Schools Is A Bargain For Taxpayers, Communities

Off-hours Recreation Activities, Meetings Make The Most Of Public Property

December 08, 1991|By Jeff R. Degitz Guest columnist

In this time of budget cuts and reductions in services, I would liketo highlight one cost-saving agreement that has been in existence since 1974.

I am referring to the Joint-Use Agreement for School-Recreation Centers in Carroll County, signed by the Board of Education and the Department of Recreation and Parks.

The goal of this agreement is to make public school buildings andgrounds available after school hours, including evenings and weekends, to be used as neighborhood and community recreation centers.

This practice increases the value of these public properties to the taxpayers by extending their use without an appreciable increase in cost. This is considerably cheaper than attempting to purchase and develop separate land and recreation centers as the only facilities available for recreation purposes.

The term "school recreation center" implies the optimum use of these public facilities for the development of educational and recreational skills, without interfering with the educational program. In fact, these efforts broaden and increase the value of the excellent overall program offered by the Board of Education.

There are 18 elementary schools, seven middle schools and five high schools and one education center that operate in accordance with this joint-use agreement.

These schools and their gymnasiums, cafeterias, classrooms, auditoriums and athletic fields serve as a "home" for a variety of evening and weekend programs sponsored by the Department of Recreation and Parks and its volunteer recreation councils.

These programs are run with the assistance of some 4,100 volunteers and have included more than 22,000 registrants, with a yearly attendance of over 665,000 participants.

In addition, the departmentand its volunteer recreation councils assign priority usage to school buildings, with higher priorities assigned only to school program use and school-affiliated activities.

School recreation centers areconveniently located to serve residents of neighborhoods and communities,with many children living within a safe walking distance. Ideally, the center becomes the focal point for education, recreation and other related activities within that neighborhood.

Many residents take deep pride in these centers and help police protect them from vandalism. They show an interest in sharing construction costs for athletic field improvements,purchasing and construction of tot lots, planting trees and shrubbery, and so on.

Volunteers who want to offer their skills have found they can do so without traveling far from home. As a result, the number of volunteers active in the recreation councils has grown steadily.

Success of the school recreation center concept depends heavily on cooperation between the county's Board of Education, the Department of Recreation and Parks and their staffs.

We are fortunate, in Carroll County, to have established and maintained an excellent working relationship with the Board of Education. The ability and willingness of both groups to sit down together and look at both education and recreation is a tribute to the people of the county.

And in these hard times, it's nice to see cooperative efforts that result in savings to the taxpayers.

Jeff R. Degitz is chief of the Bureau of Recreation, Carroll County Department of Recreation and Parks.

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