Fear of wear and tear should not stop school fairs

March 24, 2011

It was very gratifying to read that the Baltimore County Board of Education will review its rule against allowing craft fairs and other commercial events in schools ("Craft fair' policy to be reviewed," March 20). But so far, the director of physical facilities, Michael Sines, has not provided either sound information or informed opinion to help the board with such a review.

For example, while Mr. Sines and his staff cited Harford County as one of several counties that do not sublease to private vendors, he neglected to mention that Harford County provides for fund-raising in schools even by for-profit groups, as long as there is a partnership arrangement with the school, so that both will benefit. Similarly, Mr. Sines' counterpart in Howard County, Chuck Parvis, has publicly stated that in more than 30 years, fears of liability have not materialized from non-profit group-sponsored craft fairs, recycling events, daycare and other programs.

Mr. Sines has also expressed concern about the wear and tear on school facilities and said that BCPS needs to make "informed decisions" about the use of schools by other groups. Fear of wear and tear doesn't keep us from using our kitchens and bathrooms, and shouldn't keep us from using our school facilities. We hope that Mr. Sines will re-examine his anxieties regarding the damage that could be caused by annual weekend craft fairs and flea markets, meetings of a support group for children with Down's syndrome, and a dumpster day in a school parking lot, to name a few events denied by BCPS.

Like homes, schools are meant to be used, and Maryland state law requires that county boards encourage the use of public schools, funded by all taxpayers, by community groups during non-school hours.

Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, Leslie Weber and Julie Sugar

The writers are PTSA members at Loch Raven High School.

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