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Study of schools in Carroll provides an interesting education

The first weeks of June are a time when many young adults in Carroll County look forward to the end of the school year and graduation ceremonies.

In researching the history of schools in Carroll County, one comes across many references to early graduations and the "first" beginnings of a system of education in the county.

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According to research for the Historical Society of Carroll County by historian Joe Getty, it was "in 1865 when the state government mandated formation of a county school board. Carroll County protested this development, but the county school board was established…"

It is accepted that the first "public" high school built in Carroll County was the Westminster High School located at the corner of Green and Center Streets in Westminster. It was built in 1898. It was not too long after the structure was built that complaints began about the inadequacy of the physical plant.

As with so many infrastructure improvements in Carroll County, getting a new high school built was fraught with acrimony and dissent. In 1921, the Westminster High School yearbook, "The Mirror," editorialized the increase in enrollment since 1898 with alarm. It had increased from "less than fifty" to more than 260 students. There were seven students in the graduating class of May 1900.

According to historian Jay Graybeal, there were 139 schools in Carroll County in 1920. Of that number, 107 had only one teacher.

In other interesting moments in the early school system, the Union Bridge Pilot reported on Feb.18, 1921, that "Teachers' pay are being withheld owing in lack of funds and it appears the county has reached the limit of its credit."

In the 1928-29 school year, a resolution was passed by the school board that barred female teachers from getting married unless a special exception was granted.

The county three times tried unsuccessfully — May 15, 1922; Sept. 26, 1927; April 3, 1934 — to convince the voters to approve bond bills for roads and schools, which would mean a new Westminster High School.

On April 5, 1946 the Democratic Advocate reported that "… in 1950 an unusual situation will prevail. In that year there will be no graduation exercises of the high schools.

"The reason will be that schools that have the seventh grade this year (1946) started under the 12-year program recently prescribed State-wide for Maryland's public schools. Students in the eighth grades and upwards will finish their high school course under the old 11-year program.

"Hence, by 1950 the last class of the 11-year students will have been graduated and the first class of the 12-year students will have a year more to go. There just will be no graduation exercised at Westminster and other county high schools in 1950."

If you think that our present day political discourse over education and schools in Maryland is interesting; researching the history of education in Carroll County is a historian's dream. It's better than ice cream.

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