Having survived eight years as a commissioner, including four years as the board’s representative to the county school board, I feel like expressing my take on the debate over what to do with the North Carroll High School facility in Hampstead.

Before becoming a soldier in local politics, I was an independent observer and reporter, with almost 40 years in news. One of my first big stories was the war between residents and the county school board over the consolidation of Mount Airy and Sykesville high schools. There were fist fights on council room floors.


And even before that, I was a student in the first class to attend all four years in a newly consolidated high school: the real North Carroll High School in Greenmount, before it became a middle school.

Parents and former sports heroes of the respective Manchester and Hampstead high schools said there would be war among students because of the long-standing rivalries between the two schools. My generation proved that we were more interested in making love, not war, a fact that likely didn’t make the parents rest any easier. In any case, the kids assimilated, adjusted, got along and move on. They even intermarried.

Francis Scott Key was another battleground in the mid-1950s, and New Windsor, Union Bridge and Taneytown said goodbye to the old monuments of 1930s school construction — built with President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration dollars — and moved toward more efficiency and expanded curriculum offerings.

It all worked out. Times change.

One thing that never changes is public opposition to something new. At the top of the list of things the public hates is redistricting of schools to re-balance the distribution of the student populations. They hate that more than they hate crowded classrooms, disciplinary challenges, transportation conundrums, irrational state and federal educational requirements, taxes, or someone telling their little darling to put away the cellphone and do some classwork.

It’s such a can of worms that I’ve avoided speaking to it until now, in part because the decision to build Manchester Valley was funded while I had a vote on the issue. Speaking of a conundrum: I had the choice of voting for no new school in the northeast county because I did not like the siting proposal or voting for the necessary relief to the existing North Carroll in Hampstead even though I knew it would require redistricting.

Anyone who has ever had the responsibility for changing the school attendance of other people’s children will tell you they will go to a concentration camp before they do it again. I get it. Mommies and daddies can be vicious when their children face the trauma of making new friends. Or so goes the thinking.

I knew that. I also knew — and continue to believe — that the kids will make the adjustments sooner or later. If not now, then in a year or so when they go to middle school or high school or work or to college or — yikes! — military service.

The school board has formed a committee — the Redistricting and School Closure Committee — to come back in six months with a recommendation. The story in the paper lists the guidelines, which remind me of the rules for consideration handed out at the Nuremberg Trials. Wish them luck.

I was inspired to chip in on this issue this week after driving through a new development construction area just south of what used to be the Westminster city limits. When finished the plan would allow for more than 300 new homes, with the historic potential for 2.4 students per household looking for classrooms. It takes less than three years, historically, to fill up a development, but it takes up to 10 years to go through all the processes of siting, funding, doing the public hearings, etc. to build a school for 300 kids or so. I may be a little rusty with the formula, but that’s close. In any case, our history here is putting out portable classrooms the day any new school is opened for business.

If you have a school building, hold on to it. Use it for something else temporarily, if you must, but it’s easier to move kids than build a new school.