Red tape snarls parents' volunteer school project

May 18, 1993|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Staff Writer

When parents at Jessup Elementary School began organizing a volunteer effort to put up walls and partitions in their open space school, without the help of the Board of Education, the project seemed insurmountable.

But parents and community businesses quickly volunteered time, skills and materials to start the project this summer. It was the mountain of school bureaucracy that stood in the way.

Just a little more than a month away from what parents believed would be the beginning of the Jessup Works project, Board of Education members have raised questions that parents fear could delay the work, or even halt it.

Board members had asked the superintendent's staff to determine what to do if the work was not completed on time and who would pay if something went wrong.

"There have been delays after delays," said Steve Kendall, who is coordinating the parents' efforts. "At the April board [of education] meeting, the school directed the central office to find a way to pick up the liability. Now, we're hearing all sorts of rumors that it may not happen. This just seems ridiculous to me."

Staff members could not be reached for comment.

The school board is to vote tomorrow on the parents' requests to build the project.

"We can't accept any further delays in order to get this project done on time," Mr. Kendall said. "We've already raised the $7,000 to get the insurance ourselves. If we get anything other than a go-ahead, then the project is dead."

Contractors, carpenters and architects among the parents and their friends joined area businesses in offering their services at no charge. Other businesses have donated materials, and parents have bought more with money they raised.

Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. of Maryland also has donated two free years of phone service for a new library computer lab the parents are creating.

Councilman George Bachman, a Linthicum Democrat, has added his voice to the chorus of Jessup parents, who number more than 400, in asking the school board to approve the Jessup Works program.

"We have been No. 1 for several years on the board's list to have walls put up," Mr. Kendall said. "They were telling us the walls would go up in '94 and they'd have to close the school for nine months.

"The parents are saying we can do it in three months and it's not going to cost them anything. We thought we came up with a solution that would benefit everyone."

Mr. Kendall said he understands the board's position on liability but that he does not consider safety is the primary issue.

"It is my belief that [the central administration] is trying to stop the project," Mr. Kendall said. "I think some people resent that we did this without them. The county has no problem seeing this as a gift. I don't understand why the board of education can't."

Board members also will review the student transfer policy, which parents have said is being abused.

The board members will meet Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Board of Education headquarters, 2644 Riva Road.

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