Tempers flare as Centennial parents fight shift to Wilde Lake Expected influx of students forcing school redistricting


Tempers flared at last night's meeting on school boundary lines, as Centennial parents argued to keep their high school children from going to Wilde Lake.

"We moved [to Dorsey Hall] three years ago" so that their children could go to Centennial, said Dr. S. Oweis, who used to live in Wilde Lake. "It was a move that cost me thousands of dollars. Now you're moving us back?"

Nearly 500 parents and students attended the second regional meeting, which addressed overcrowding in schools in the western county, including West Friendship, Ellicott City and Glenwood.

Expectation of an additional 11,000 students by the year 1999 has forced officials to build more schools, move portable classrooms and redraw boundary lines to ease overcrowding.

Associate Superintendent Maurice Kalin presented two preliminary recommendations on redistricting the Centennial area:

* Current eighth-graders living in Dorsey Hall or in the Beaverbrook, Hobbits Glen and Longfellow neighborhoods would be shifted to Wilde Lake in 1993. The next year, they would attend school temporarily with Wilde Lake students at the new Trotter Road high school, with Wilde Lake closing for two years to undergo renovations.

* Redistricting the Centennial/Wilde Lake area would be delayed until 1996, when officials would take ninth-, 10th- and 11th-graders out of one school and place them in the Trotter Road facility.

Parents in both communities were unhappy with the two recommendations. They said that they are afraid to send their children to Wilde Lake, since it has a different grading system and philosophy.

Some said that Centennial is a superior school, citing Wilde Lake's low standardized test scores. Others said that school redistricting would cause their property values to plummet.

Parents from Dorsey Hall argued that their neighborhood is farther away from Wilde Lake than Longfellow, Beaverbrook and Hobbits Glen, and that their children should be able to stay within the Centennial district. Some even suggested building a school in the northern part of the county instead of the one scheduled for East Columbia in 1996. But Mr. Kalin said that the school system is committed to the Long Reach site.

"Change it," one parent cried out.

Mr. Kalin said redistricting is inevitable, with the only questions, "Who?" and "When?"

The school system has planned 19 projects -- renovations, additions and new construction -- to accommodate the students.

"Folks, we have 11,000 people coming into this county," he said. "We have to [redistrict]."

Parents not in Dorsey Hall pitched their own appeal.

One 21-year Beaverbrook resident said, "It is important to keep the neighborhood together. If you take us away from Centennial, we'll make another school great, too. But we want to go to Centennial."

Megs Rosenberg, who lives in Beaverbrook, said that her concern is whether her child "is going to get redistricted to a high school I don't know very much about. I for one would be happy to see my taxes go up a little so there won't be any overcrowding."

Ironically, Longfellow, Beaverbrook and Hobbits Glen originally were in the Wilde Lake district, but changed to Centennial in 1977 to relieve overcrowding at Wilde Lake. Parents were unhappy about that change at the time, Mr. Kalin said.

Some parents said that they left last night's meeting as confused as they came in.

"Howard County has an interesting dilemma," said John Frey, who recently moved to Ellicott City. "It has lots of kids coming in. It's going to have to redistrict.

"It's a challenge, but it's something that has to be done. Some people are not going to like it."

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