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Our View: Thumbs up for pickleball at TownMall, high school graduations, scholars and library project progress | COMMENTARY

THUMBS UP: Business at TownMall of Westminster has been spotty amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but thanks to a unique partnership there’s a place that seems to be thriving and attracts many different activities. The Fun & Fit Factory, a bounce house establishment owned by Anthony DeJesus, is also home to a group of pickleball enthusiasts who come to the mall twice a week to play games indoors. DeJesus met a man last fall who talked to him about pickleball, and from there an agreement was forged. The Fun & Fit Factory is no longer just a place for kids to play — now people of all ages can have a few matches on one of the five courts recently added inside. DeJesus, of Westminster, took over the businesses nearly four years ago. It was called Paradise of Fun where kids could also bounce around. He told us it took a couple of years to get the place up and going but when it did, business was good. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, DeJesus saw less people and hosted fewer parties. “It does OK, but it doesn’t bring in the money that pickleball brings in,” he told us. John Ebeling, who is part of a pickleball group out of New Windsor, said his bunch needed indoor space during the winter months. Ebeling said pickleball at The Fun & Fit Factory worked out well for him and DeJesus. “It’s a win-win for both of us,” Ebeling said.

THUMBS UP: Here’s to some normalcy for Carroll County Public Schools students, who last week learned their high schools are planning to hold graduation ceremonies outdoors in 2021 after last year’s events were canceled altogether amid the pandemic. Both CCPS and McDaniel College plan to have graduations outdoors in a stadium. While the public school system is working to solidify its plans, McDaniel announced its May 22 commencement for not only the Class of 2021 but the Class of 2020 as well. County public high school graduates typically have their ceremonies inside McDaniel’s Gill Center. However, CCPS adjusted its plans last spring to avoid crowds in an effort to mitigate COVID-19 spread. The June graduations still included walking across a stage, but in front of a much smaller audience. McDaniel’s ceremony was canceled entirely. The public school news was discussed at the Feb. 10 Carroll County Board of Education meeting. Eric King, director of high schools, said CCPS hopes to announce a date soon and plans to have the ceremonies completed by June 6.

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THUMBS UP: A trio of Carroll County Career and Technology Center engineering students is being considered for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, something the kids didn’t know much about prior to being told they were candidates. Seniors Yasada De Silva of Century High School, Carrie Geisler of Westminster High School and Gabriel Szybalski of Manchester Valley High School are among the 4,000 other students across the country who were selected for the first round. Candidates are selected based on superior academic achievements, artistic achievements, leadership qualities, strong character and involvement in community in school activities. Most students are selected based on broad academic achievement and approximately 20 are picked based on academic and artistic scholarship. Another 20 are selected based on outstanding scholarship and accomplishment in career and technical education fields. Good luck to all three.

THUMBS UP: The Carroll County Public Library’s $4.9 million project, Exploration Commons at 50 East, is on track to be open to the public by June. The Westminster branch’s basement will transform into a makerspace with a professional teaching kitchen and other collaborative work spaces and meeting rooms. The new community space is being developed to provide access to technology to underserved populations and to individuals who would not normally have access to technology-focused opportunities. The Exploration Commons staff is also being trained so the space’s new programs can be used virtually as well as in-person.

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