Potential victim of Carroll County budget ax

Outdoor School may be on way out

WESTMINSTER, Md. - At first glance, it may look like a summer camp, but for 50 years, Outdoor School has been a rite of passage for sixth graders in Carroll County.

"My dad said I would like it, because he came here like 33 years ago," said 6th Grader Daniel Miller.

"We do hikes and we learn about the trees and the nature outside," added classmate Sophia Dickmyer.

"It's going to be a camp," explained Allison Boggs, "but we're learning about environment and having fun at the same time."

Former Superintendent Dr. Charles Ecker was one of the early co-founders.

"It was 1962, and we thought about an outdoor school where we would take sixth graders out for a week."

Over time, the camp has turned into a key component in educating children about environmental issues.

In his 36 years as the program's director, Steve Heacock has guided more than 100,000 students through the program.

"We have never lost the support of the community.  That's obvious.  There are lots of parents that are rallying and attending meetings and starting online petitions.  We've never lost the support of the Board of Education, nor the superintendent."

But with a budget shortfall, Superintendent of Schools Stephen Guthrie has identified the program as one which is in jeopardy if the county reduces school funding.

For those who have had the experience of participating in the week-long program, cutting it seems unimaginable.

"When I look back, I remember everything about my week," said Colleen Muhl, a teacher at Faith Christian School in Westminster, "I think that every student comes to Outdoor School with a different need and they leave having different needs fulfilled---some of them need the confidence and the independence and, of course, just the awareness of the environment and the program they teach you here can't be replaced."

*The Outdoor School is one of many subjects expected to come up Monday night at a community forum on education in Westminster.

The forum is being held at Carroll Community College's Scott Center at 7pm.

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