Cancellation of day care angers parents West county residents feel east county is treated better

June 13, 1996|By Kathleen B. Hennelly | Kathleen B. Hennelly,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Lisbon parents who were counting on a summer day-care program at Lisbon Elementary School are infuriated that the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks canceled the sessions and waited two weeks to tell them.

But recreation and parks officials said they had little choice when only 24 children registered for the program by the May 28 deadline, six fewer than the minimum number required. They are working to notify parents and help them find alternative programs for their children.

The situation underscores a continuing friction between the county and residents in the west county, who complain that the county slights their neighborhoods in favor of more populated areas.

"We pay taxes just the same as the rest of the county," said Betty Lou Chadwell, a Lisbon resident. "It seems that if you don't live in Columbia or Ellicott City in Howard County, then your voice is not heard."

Jeffrey Bourne, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, said that isn't the case. "We have to have minimum participation or else we can't run the program there," he said. "It doesn't matter if it is in western county."

In addition, the day-care program at West Friendship Elementary School, about eight miles from Lisbon, was canceled after the school board scheduled maintenance work at the school during the summer.

Chadwell said she and her husband enrolled their child in the Summer Escapades program at Lisbon Elementary in early spring and were officially notified Tuesday of the program's cancellation. School ends June 19, and the program was scheduled to begin June 24.

"I'm appalled at the way that they have handled this," she said. "We, as parents, depend on this program, and they canceled it and tell us about it two weeks later."

Beth Loratto, whose two children have been involved in the programs for the past four years, called the department June 3 because she had heard a rumor that the program might be canceled.

"I had to call to find out if this rumor was true. It was, but I had to initiate the communication," she said. "There just aren't any facilities in this area for child care, I don't know what we'll do. We haven't been given time to find another place."

The programs, for which parents already have paid, range from $270 for six weeks at nine hours a day to $640 for eight weeks at 11 hours a day.

Activities include field trips, games, crafts and sports from bowling to swimming. The program also keeps flexible hours so parents can drop off their children after 7 a.m. and pick them up before 6 p.m.

To accommodate the families who wanted to place their children in the Lisbon and West Friendship programs, the Department of Recreation and Parks has expanded the number of openings at Manor Woods Elementary in the west county and Waverly Elementary in Ellicott City.

Parent Patty Blodgett said the alternative locations are unacceptable. "Those areas are completely out of the way for me," she said. "I work in Gaithersburg, as do some of the other parents, and that is in the complete opposite direction."

Brett Chadwell and Joe Blodgett, both 10, said they liked the camps during previous summers and hope they can attend this year.

"We have fun there," Brett said. "There are lots of things to do there."

Said Joe, "I will definitely miss it. If I don't go there, I have to go to work with my parents."

Pub Date: 6/13/96

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