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Board reviews facility use agreements for outside groups

By Preston Knight -- pknight@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- About 90 minutes into a discussion that seemed like it might last forever during a meeting last week, the Shenandoah County School Board's chairman summed up the situation perfectly.

"Wouldn't it be nice to be spending this much time on instruction?" Gary Rutz said.

The topic and instruction, though, go hand in hand with respect to funding a child's education, requiring the long review that took place at the June 16 meeting. The board was receiving information and acting on various new memorandums of agreement with community organizations for use of school facilities to ensure that the division was being appropriately compensated.

Superintendent Keith Rowland said the county was losing money in some situations, such as by subsidizing the childcare program from Seven Bends Student Centers and maintaining fields for youth football.

Revenue from Seven Bends totals $14,400, but to just operate the gymnasium at W.W. Robinson Elementary School, for example, costs nearly $17,000, Finance Director Jeremy Raley said. Administrators proposed a new agreement increasing potential revenue by more than $20,000, but the School Board voted for something slightly less -- hiking charges at different levels to earn $28,800 a year from the program. District 5 representative Irving "Skeeter" Getz was the lone dissenting vote.

The memorandums, most of which were just information items this month and will be voted on in July, deal with a variety of organizations, including youth football and baseball/softball. At the outset of the review of the series of documents, Rutz said it was a "touchy" subject, and one he advised his colleagues to be careful with and consistent on with regard to how each group should be charged.

One item that had board members upset was a proposal from the Strasburg Little League to have exclusive use of what is known as Moose Field next to Sandy Hook Elementary School. The organization, the memorandum proposes, would install lighting there at its expense and be responsible for maintenance, in exchange for sole use. It would also build a kickball field to serve the school in place of Moose Field.

"That's our property. They're telling us what to do," Rutz said. "If we want to use the fields ... we should have the right to use those fields."

Board members Rick Koontz and Kathryn Holsinger also expressed their disapproval with a community organization having exclusive use of a school field.

"This is why you are presented something as information," Rowland said.

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