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Coach, Councilmembers Seek Adjusted School Fields Closure Rule

A Perry Hall football coach said his team should not have been restricted from a school field days after Hurricane Irene.

UPDATE (1:25 p.m.)—Shortly after in August 2011, a Perry Hall football coach wasn't allowed to hold practice on the fields of . The fields were free of debris, but because schools had been closed countywide, fields were closed to recreation groups, as well.

"The frustrating part was that kids were still practicing on the [Department of Recreation and Parks'] fields—it was only the schools' fields that were closed," said Bill Lutostanski, who coaches 9 and under football. "I thought it was absurd."

Lutostanski, who works as a Baltimore County firefighter, contacted about the incident and to Patch.

County officials are now asking county school officials to adjust Rule 6303, which states that "All planned use of facilities and grounds by non-BCPS organizations are cancelled," during a weather-related emergency closure or early dismissal.

A letter urging to allow fields to remain open, unless there is a public safety risk, was mailed on March 20. Marks drafted the letter and gained signatures from all six of his colleagues.

The letter encouraged more flexibility, mentioning a controversial facilities use rule that essentially banned third-party use of school system property—including and . After a long struggle with county officials and lobbying from community members, the that rule in August of last year.

"Last year, the Board of Education modified its facilities policy to accommodate community activities, and we applaud the Board’s flexibility. We ask that the policy regarding recreational activities be modified to allow for use of the fields unless a determination is made that there are public safety risks," the letter stated.

The full letter is available in the media gallery.

Charles Herndon, a schools spokesperson, said Hairston had not yet received and reviewed the letter, but would "take the issue under advisement."

Herndon added that nearly all unplanned school closures and early dismissals involve unsafe weather conditions.

"Typically, we're talking about snow or ice or torrential rains that would preclude schools from staying open," he said. "Generally, you want people to stay home and out of the inclement weather."

If the school board were to approve the adjustment, field quality and safety would likely need to be evaluated on an "individual basis," Herndon said.

He declined to comment on whether or not field evaluations would present an added cost to county schools.

, longtime president of the , said he supports the rule adjustment because it would lead to more equal treatment of teams that practice on county schools fields and teams that practice on county park fields.

"As long as the fields are in good shape, there's no reason why we shouldn't use them," Soukup said.

Lutostanski said he hoped change would come quickly.

"It seems like a simple adjustment to make," he said. "Something needs to be done before it affects the children again."

Do you agree or disagree with a more flexible rule regarding the closure of school fields? Tell us in the comments.

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Timmy Ruppersberger March 22, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Makes perfect sense. Let's hope it does not take too long to get it done.
Lisa Payne March 22, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Not only does it affect field usage, but it affects after school programs such as Open Door. If evening activities are cancelled or schools close early for weather, the after school programs are cancelled, leaving the parents scrambling to leave work. Open Door runs programs in Harford and Anne Arundel County schools, and neither of them have the same policy on school closures.
William Lutostanski Jr March 22, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Lets be clear here. We are not talking about snow and ice. We are talking about a school closing for things such as, power outages and water main breaks. Closings like these or any other that would not affect the fields should not preclude recreational activities. In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene BCPS closed schools County wide due to the number of power outages, weather related, but as we all know the week following Irene was 75 degrees and sunny, and the athletic fields suffered no damage yet were closed due to this rule. This is what I seek to have changed. I can assure Mr Herdon that the BCPS will incur no addtional cost in modifying this rule as the Department of Recreation and Parks already has someone assigned to each field area to determine playability, and also has an inclement weather policy.
Jennifer Bolster March 29, 2012 at 04:51 PM
What about the fact that all fields are closed on election days (when schools are closed)? Can somebody explain the rationale behind that?

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