Howard County Times
Howard County

Mission possible? Students, residents ask Howard school board to consider other names for 13th high school ahead of vote

When Elkridge Landing Middle School eighth grader Talia Roogow walks through the doors of Howard County’s 13th high school in Jessup this August, she hopes the building bears a name she and her classmates can take pride in.

After a committee recommended on Nov. 17 naming the new school Quarry Heights High School, Roogow launched a petition urging the Board of Education to ditch the word “quarry” and instead include “mission” in the name.

Howard County’s 13th high school is under construction in Jessup and set to open its doors in August to approximately 800 freshmen and sophomores. The Board of Education will determine the new school's name on Jan. 12. (Aug 3, 2022 photo)

“Quarry is not a fun word to say and it’s not really reflecting on any of us,” said Roogow, 13, who will join 800 other rising freshmen and sophomores at the school, which sits off of Mission Road, this fall.

Roogow’s petition has garnered more than 600 signatures and joins other voices asking the school board to consider alternatives to Quarry Heights. The board is scheduled to debate and vote on a final name Jan. 12


“That community was more than a quarry ... A lot of great people came from that area and I think the name quarry would be an insult.”

—  Joan Carter-Smith, who grew up in Guilford and now lives in Clarksville

“I would like to see a name that honors a richer history of the area around the school,” Elkridge Hanover resident and HCPSS parent Becki Vivrette said at a December public hearing. “Two names that could do this are Mission High School or Guilford Forest High School.”

In October, the naming process kicked off when the school system launched a survey to solicit public recommendations. The survey received more than 1,100 responses, with the two most popular choices being Mission High School (227 submissions) and Jessup High School (157). Various names with the word “quarry” were submitted 60 times.

Policy 6050, which governs the naming and renaming of the county’s public schools, states that schools must be named for geographic terms, including “physical and human geographic features,” in the surrounding area. Schools cannot be named for an individual and the duplication of names or initials of other schools in the district should be avoided.

“Mission was considered,” committee historian Renee Bos told the school board on Nov. 17. “The problem is that it refers to a very specific Pallottine novitiate that was there [on Mission Road]. So, we are actually referencing a Roman Catholic institution that puts together some cultural proficiency issues when we’re looking at a public school system.”

Residents contend the word mission has a deeper meaning to the community and the committees’ recommendations don’t capture the diverse history of the land the new high school occupies.

“Anything is better than quarry,” Vivrette said.

Growth of the Guilford community

The new high school sits at the nexus of Jessup and Guilford, an unincorporated community with historic ties to the quarry industry.

The first of several granite quarries was opened along the Little Patuxent River in 1834, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The quarries flourished thanks in part to the burgeoning Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and hundreds of laborers flocked to Guilford in the late 1800s.


One worker was the Rev. Willis Carter, a minister and skilled granite driller born into slavery in Richmond, Virginia, who moved to Maryland in 1895. In addition to serving as a quarry supervisor, Carter helped found the First Baptist Church of Guilford to support the town’s growing Black population.

The Rev. Willis Carter, a minister and stone worker who moved to Maryland in 1895 and founded the First Baptist Church of Guilford.

Carter’s great-great granddaughter, Joan Carter-Smith, 71, now lives in Clarksville, but grew up along Cartersville Road and attended Guilford Elementary School, which remained segregated until 1965. Her uncle, Roger Carter, who was denied bus transportation as a student, started Howard County’s first Black-owned bus company.

Carter-Smith testified at the December hearing.

“That history is so important that I think that the [new] school should be named Guilford High School in honor of all of those people,” Carter-Smith said. “Some of the descendants are still here.”

Mission Road, listed on the 1940 U.S. Census, was likely named after the Jessup novitiate, according to Wayne Davis, a retired Environmental Protection Agency employee who is writing a history book on Guilford. Set amid the woods, farms and quarries, the Jessup novitiate opened in 1934 to train young theologians on their way to Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

“As far as I know, they weren’t proselytizing,” Davis, 65, said. “It was an educational center. They chose the area because it was remote.”


After the novitiate closed in 1957, Mission Road sat at the heart of the Black Guilford community for years until the construction of Columbia and Interstate 95 spurred rapid development and forced many older residents to move.

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“That community was more than a quarry,” Carter-Smith said. “A lot of great people came from that area and I think the name quarry would be an insult.”

Landing on a final name

After hearing initial community concerns with including quarry in high school 13′s name, the Board of Education unanimously voted to add Mission Spring High School to the list of candidates. The board could use a committee recommended name or an entirely new name.

At the Nov. 17 meeting, multiple school board members expressed concerns that naming the high school Quarry Heights would tie it to an ongoing commercial enterprise, Savage Stone, LLC, which opened in 2006 and sits adjacent to the school’s property.

The naming decision comes at the end of a months-long attendance area adjustment process to fill the new high school. Many Elkridge residents, who had long advocated for their own high school, were redistricted to Jessup despite fears they would face hazardous commutes down Route 1 to the county’s southeast.

“After all this divisiveness … I think the word mission, if you know the whole history, holds a lot more value,” said Roogow’s mother, Sarah. “The high school is built, it is what it is. Now the mission is to bring these communities together.”


While she was initially nervous to attend a new school, Roogow says she’s excited about the fall and wants to join high school 13′s first softball team. In the meantime, she said she hopes board members keep in mind her future classmates’ voices as they take their final vote.

“We’re the ones who are going to be affected by the name,” she said. “That’s how people are gonna think of us. You know people based on where they go to school or where they live.”