Merdon vows more funding for athletics as executive

September 06, 2006|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN REPORTER

Christopher J. Merdon, the Howard County Council chairman, who is running for county executive on the GOP ticket, said yesterday that if elected he plans to fund after-school athletic teams at county middle schools and synthetic-turf fields at county high schools.

Merdon said the school system's new health and wellness policy thoroughly addresses nutrition, but, he said, "I felt there could have been a little more emphasis on athletic activity in our schools." He said athletics is linked to academic achievement, is a positive way to fill time after school and encourages teamwork and leadership.

Based on what other counties spend on similar programs, Merdon estimated that $300,000 to $350,000 would support one sport for girls and one for boys at each of the county's 18 middle schools. The largest portion would cover busing for participants and transportation for games. The teams would be open to seventh- and eighth-graders.

He said two artificial-turf fields built in one year would cost $600,000 each, and he supports installing fields at all 12 high schools over six years.

Joshua Kaufman, the school board chairman, said that after-school sports teams are among the options being discussed to increase physical activity by middle-schoolers. He also said the board is aware that high school playing fields are strained by student and community use. But he said the board has not discussed whether synthetic fields are a budget priority.

Ken Ulman, a Democratic candidate for county executive and a member of the County Council, said Merdon's ideas are valid, "but coming two months before an election from someone who has a dismal record in funding education, they lack credibility."

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