Friday, April 02, 2010

Study of space becoming a victim of school budget cuts

By Michael Alison Chandler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 2, 2010

The David M. Brown Planetarium opened a few months after the United States put a man on the moon. More than 40 years later, little has changed in the weathered white dome that marks the entrance to the Arlington County school system's headquarters. Students sit in the same faded electric blue stadium seats and stare up at a stellar showcase provided by 16 slide projectors, two laserdisc players and the original Spitz A4 star projector.

School officials estimate that it would cost $500,000 to make the facility, named for an Arlington graduate killed in the 2003 Columbia space shuttle disaster, state of the art again. Instead, Superintendent Patrick K. Murphy has proposed closing the dome and converting it to standard classrooms. His proposal follows a decision last year by the Fairfax County School Board to cut funding for elementary field trips to the nine planetariums there.

More than 500 planetariums were built in the heat of the space race, many of them proud additions to public schools made possible by federal funding. Today, school boards across the country are debating whether the costs of maintaining or updating the aging domes are worth it for a generation of students shaped more by the Information Age than the Space Age. Read more HERE.

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