A committee formed to ease the transition of students from North Carroll High School to Manchester Valley High School when North Carroll closes, suggested that Manchester Valley should keep its name.
When the Board of Education voted in December to close three schools — Charles Carroll Elementary, New Windsor Middle and North Carroll High — for the 2016-2017 school year, it was decided that the majority of students currently districted to attend North Carroll in Hampstead would be redistricted to Manchester Valley High, located about four miles away.
Appeals filed with the State Board of Education by residents seeking to overturn the local board's decision are currently pending.
In the meantime, it was determined that a community-based committee would be formed to consider a new name, new mascot and/or new school colors for recommendation, and that the committee would decide how school traditions and memorials at North Carroll could be rededicated at Manchester Valley, according to the Superintendent's Final School Closure and Boundary Adjustment Recommended Plan.
The Board of Education, whose members will ultimately decide what to name Manchester Valley High, is scheduled to hear suggestions for renaming the school at Wednesday's regularly scheduled board meeting at 4 p.m.
The transition committee is composed of about 120 parents, students, administrators and teachers, with about 60 representing Manchester Valley and about 60 representing North Carroll, said Steve Johnson, assistant superintendent of instruction for Carroll County Public Schools. "The purpose of the committee is not for the name of the school, however, we will use this committee to help make that recommendation," Johnson said.
Members signed up for subcommittees for various areas including athletics, graduation, and memorials and traditions, he said.
The names of the two high schools — Manchester Valley and North Carroll — were considered, as well as new names Maple Grove, after the street where Manchester Valley is located, and North Valley, a combination of both high schools' names. Ultimately though, the majority decided it would be best to keep the school's current name.
"The vote seemed to indicate that changing the name to North Carroll High School really doesn't make it North Carroll High School," said Kim Maclean-Blevins, a member of the transition committee whose two daughters currently attend Manchester Valley. "I think the community is saying changing the name is not a necessity for bringing these communities together."
Maclean-Blevins, an instructional assistant at Ebb Valley Elementary School, said her children made the transition to Manchester Valley from North Carroll High when the school opened in 2009.
"I love North Carroll, too. The sad part is their building is more suited for the number of kids coming here," Maclean-Blevins said. "Several years from now this will be taken care of; the kids will move on. This will be a positive situation. North Carroll has always been a very strong community."
An upside to combining the underpopulated schools is that course offerings will be improved for students and travel times will be reduced for some who traveled between schools to take classes, she said.
Despite her optimistic outlook, Maclean-Blevins expressed uncertainty about whether Manchester Valley will provide adequate space and if the school will have enough parking, especially for special events such as athletic games.
"We are essentially doubling the size of Manchester Valley," Maclean-Blevins said. "I can't see how we're going to do that without compromises."
The committee came up with ideas for a mascot, with the top three being Manchester Valley's current mascot, Mavericks; Panthers, which is North Carroll High's mascot; and Wildcats. The options chosen for school colors are Manchester Valley's navy and silver, North Carroll's red and black, silver and black, and navy and orange.
"Once the board decides and settles on a name for the school, just like we do when we open up a new school, we're going to send all the new choices for colors and mascots to the students at Manchester Valley and North Carroll so that they can vote, which would include the eighth-graders this year that will be attending next year," Johnson said.
Students will have the ultimate say on mascots and colors for the consolidated school when they vote in late March, he said.
Nikki Fern, a junior at North Carroll High who is also part of the transition committee, said it will be difficult to give up her school and its traditions.
"I think it will be a lot different because we're going to their school, so they expect us to get along with their traditions," Fern said. "A lot of us don't want to change [our traditions] because losing the building is giving up a lot to us."
Whereas Manchester Valley High's population is set on keeping its name and traditions, North Carroll High's population is split between different ideas, she said.
But Fern said she thinks everything will work out in the end. While both schools have a competitive rivalry, students are friends and spend time together, she said.
"We're just trying to make a smooth transition with everybody," she said. "Students are handling it better at this point; a lot of parents have a history at North Carroll. I understand their concerns, but I think we're trying to get along and move forward."