, the Baltimore County Board of Education voted Tuesday night to implement a revised version of a controversial facilities use rule that had been used in recent years to stifle festivals, craft fairs and flea markets.
The system's rule previously banned third-party use of school system property, meaning Parent-Teacher Associations and other groups could not rent table space to vendors.
The rule went largely unenforced until recent years, when the school system cited liability issues and the impact of events on facilities. Many PTA and PTSA groups found applications for longtime events suddenly denied.
A revised policy went through several drafts on the way to its new form, following several rounds of public comments.
The new rule tweaks and clarifies permitted events and rules and creates an appeal procedure if a facility request is denied. Small community events of 50 people or less will not need proof of insurance. Admission fees charged for events now will not have to go directly back to the board. The full policy submitted to the board is attached to this article.
All of the board members present approved the new policy. Board president Lawrence Schmidt, who was not present for the vote, that "people who were not happy are going to be happy" with the revised policy.
Under the new policy, events that were forced off school property—including the Ridgely Middle School craft fair and the Perry Hall Town Fair—may be able to return. Consensus on the new rule was largely positive among parents and residents in attendance.
"All of Baltimore County will benefit from increased access to our schools," said Leslie Weber, former president of the Loch Raven High PTSA, in a public comment to the board.
Eric Rockel, president of the Greater Timonium Community Council, told the board the new rule "goes a long way towards addressing the issue ... And it's for that reason that I would give it good marks."
However, he raised concerns that the revised policy did not go far enough, citing "overly bureaucratic" requirements for nonprofits and worries that the 10-day timeframe for appeals "may be too short of a window."