Balto. County school board tables vote on facilities policy changes

Board wants committee to review the 60 comments

July 12, 2011|By Raven L. Hill, The Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore County school board decided Tuesday to table the measure on easing controversial requirements for parent and community groups to use the school system's buildings.

After months of community outcry over Rule 1300, as the policy is known, the Board of Education considered several changes that include allowing the groups to use outside vendors, waiving insurance requirements and fees for small groups, outlining an appeals process, and detailing a list of groups authorized to use school facilities.

Stricter enforcement of Rule 1300 last school year put some long-standing community activities and fairs in jeopardy, sparking outcry from parent-teacher associations and other groups.

Board members decided to postpone the vote after receiving 60 comments about the changes. They will send the changes back to the facilities committee to review the comments.

The current guideline says groups cannot "sublease or rent BCPS facilities and grounds to any other parties." PTAs often rely on outside vendors to come in and sell their wares at craft fairs.

Critics of the policy said before the meeting that they were pleased but that some changes do not go far enough.

"They have made some good changes," said Leslie Weber, former Loch Raven High School PTA president.

Kingsville resident Mike Pierce said he is dissatisfied with the proposed appeals process, which does not set a timeline for a response from the school system.

"All they have to do is sit on something and delay the event by not responding in a timely manner," he said. "The applicant makes an appeal to the same department that turned them down in the first place. As anyone will tell you, that's not an appeal."

Pierce said he still feels the school district is working against public sentiment.

"They seem to be going out of their way to prevent the public from using public schools," he said.

Nancy L. Ostrow, president of the county PTA Council, told the school board last month that she was unhappy that parent-teacher activities and meetings will be considered a lower priority than those sponsored by the county recreation and parks department and its affiliated councils.

"The events that many PTAs sponsor are held to increase family involvement and/or raise funds for the school," she said. "This is not the case with affiliated park and recreation programs that serve an important community need rather than a specific school's need."

In other news, the board elected new leadership. Lawrence E. Schmidt, who ran unopposed, was elected president. Valerie A. Roddy was chosen as vice president over James E. Coleman in an 8-3 vote.

raven.hill@baltsun.com

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