Greencastle-Antrim school officials to charge community groups to use district facilities

PAT FRIDGEN

Greencastle-Antrim High School principal Ed Rife presented the final plan for a facilities usage policy and guidelines to the school board on Jan. 5. He, superintendent Dr. C. Gregory Hoover, business manager Richard Lipella and athletic director Vicki Ritchey had worked on versions since September. The previous policy was 15-years-old, Rife said, and needed to be updated with the advent of the new turf fields.

The effort was intended to fairly allow school and community groups to use the schools, but also to charge fees that covered utility, custodial, food, security and stage crew expenses.  School student-sponsored and school-related organizations were exempt from rental fees, community non-profit groups would pay reduced rent, and outside groups would pay the full rental fee. The only traditional users from the latter category were Clarissa's School of Performing Arts and the Chambersburg Cardinals.

Board members Eric Holtzman, Brian Hissong, Ken Haines, Joel Fridgen, Tracy Baer, Mike Shindle, Mike Still, William Thorne, and Melinda Cordell pondered details and timing for the new policy to take effect. In response to questions, Lipella said school expenses would mostly likely be covered, though only one meter ran for all electrical use. An employee or maintenance staff person would have the key to open the facilities when reserved. Though the policy could be enforced immediately if passed at the next meeting, Hissong thought that was unfair to organizations that had already made their yearly plans. Ritchey said most callers were aware a fee might be in place for their activity.

Rife had recommended purchasing FS Direct at some point. The online facility usage scheduling application would streamline communications with the public, billing and scheduling. It was already in use by 18 area school districts, including Chambersburg, Tuscarora and Mercersburg Academy. The cost was $3,000 the first year, then $2,000 annually.

Baer suggested the district start the new charges June 1, to give everyone time to adjust to the system. The matter will be on the Jan. 19 agenda.

"This is a major change and a great step forward," said Lipella.