The wait just got longer to find out what Howard County’s 13th high school in Jessup will be named, as the county school board voted Thursday to delay its decision to Feb. 9.
“This is a big decision,” said Superintendent Michael Martirano. “We want to get that as close to right as we can.”
As part of her motion to delay the vote, Board of Education Chair Antonia Watts asked the 37-member naming committee to come up with a new “list of diverse names” for the board to consider. The motion passed 6-2, with board members Jennifer Swickard Mallo and Jolene Mosley voting against it.
“I think kicking the can down the road is not a good idea,” Mosley said. “We’ve had iterations, we’ve had public testimony, we’ve had community feedback, we had a student petition.”
On Nov. 17, the co-chairs of the naming committee tasked with recommending names for the new school presented a list of three finalists to the board: Quarry Heights High School, Quarry View High School and Quarry Rock High School.
Granite quarries have been present in the Jessup-Guilford region since the 1830s, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
“The committee ... really felt, in listening to the geographical explanation of the area, that quarry was the one unifying characteristic that didn’t signify one or another area of the community,” said Patrick J. Saunderson, committee co-chair and community superintendent for area 1 schools.
According to Policy 6050, which governs the naming of county public schools, new schools must be named for geographic terms and cannot be named for a person. The duplication of names or initials of other schools in the district should be avoided.
The naming process began in October when the school system launched a public survey to solicit recommendations. The survey received more than 1,100 responses. The two most popular choices were Mission High School (227 submissions) and Jessup High School (157).
Committee historian Renee Bos said that the word “mission,” which refers to a road next to the new high school, was considered but since it was derived from a now-closed Roman Catholic novitiate it “puts together some cultural proficiency issues when we’re looking at a public school system.”
In the fall, the committee asked students from potential high school feeder schools to vote on a list of 10 quarry-derived names. At Thursday’s meeting, board members questioned why they limited the survey to names with “quarry.”
“Just think about the example, when we ask people to choose their favorite dish and then the shortlist all contains seafood,” Vice Chair Yun Lu said. “Does that really represent their true favorite food?”
A petition started by Elkridge Landing Middle School eighth grader Talia Roogow, who will attend high school 13 , received more than 600 signatures and asked the board to consider a name with “mission” in it. A motion by Mosley to add the name Mission Spring High School to the list of recommendations passed unanimously on Nov. 17.
Martirano stressed that a name had to be chosen soon so that the new school can select a mascot and start ordering apparel. One benefit to the delay, he said, is that HCPSS can directly survey high school 13′s future student body, since the attendance area adjustment process was finalized after the initial fall surveys.
The superintendent says he will reconvene the naming committee to create a list that includes non-quarry options and work with the school system to survey high school 13 students on the results.
“I’m more concerned about the students and how they feel and the pride they will have in the name of the school that they will be attending,” said board member Jacky McCoy. “It’s going to be a wonderful school, whatever the name is, but names matter.”