Some 30 parents of students at Centennial High School asked the Howard County school board last night to reject a staff recommendation to send their children to Wilde Lake High School, saying such a move would upset the racial balance at Centennial.
The parents, almost all from the Longfellow community, labeled the staff recommendation "unconscionable," "most unfair" and "the worse possible solution."
They said that redrawing boundaries so that students who live in Longfellow would attend Wilde Lake would make Centennial less diverse and Wilde Lake more disproportionately so.
The boundaries would be redrawn because Wilde Lake is under-enrolled by about 100 students.
Wilde Lake has the largest number of foreign-born students and a 42 percent minority enrollment, the highest among the county's eight high schools.
"Our community doesn't add any diversity to Wilde Lake," said parent Marilyn Yetso. "We are more of the same."
Associate Superintendent Maurice Kalin recommends new boundaries that would send students from Longfellow, Beaverbrook and Hobbit's Glen neighborhoods to Wilde Lake in 1994 to ease overcrowding at Centennial, now about 200 students overcapacity. Mr. Kalin also proposes to send students in the Dorsey Hall community to the new western high school when it opens in 1996.
The Longfellow parents presented three counterproposals -- their children to remain at Centennial; send Dorsey Hall students, mostly white and affluent, to the new western high school; or send Longfellow residents to the new school and Dorsey Hall's staying at Centennial.
Parent Sharyn Tolkach favored the transfer of Dorsey Hall
residents, saying it would add "a mostly white [student] population from middle- to upper-class housing."
At the hearing, Wilde Lake students, teachers and parents urged the board to draw new boundaries as soon as possible, saying they are having trouble offering classes because of the school's small numbers.
"Wilde Lake is seriously under-populated, and this factor has greatly affected students like me," said 17-year-old Shamim Sinnar. "Upper-level classes have had to be canceled because too few students signed up for them."
She said about 20 classes, including business law, advanced-placement chemistry and statistics, have been cut because of low enrollment.
"Wilde Lake functioned best with an enrollment at 1,050 to 1,100 students, when it could offer the diversity of courses and activities necessary for a complete and successful high school experience," said Doug Duvall, Wilde Lake football coach. The school currently has an enrollment of about 800 students.
About 200 parents, students and teachers attended last night's hearing on school redistricting at Howard High School.
They asked the board to consider racial and socioeconomic balance as it redraws boundary lines for some elementary, some middle and two high schools. The parents want all high schools to have the same proportions of minority students and less affluent students.
A second public hearing has been scheduled for 7:30 p.m. today.
Also last night, some 30 St. John's Lane Elementary School parents told horror stories of overcrowding at their school.
Music classes are held in a small custodian office and the "orchestra meets onstage in the cafeteria in a very cramped area," said parent Ruth Lobe. "Teaching [in many classrooms] is too noisy for one-on-one work."