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Board asked to preserve Centennial High district


More parents made a final effort last night to persuade the Howard County school board not to draw boundary lines that would shift their children out of the Centennial High School district.

Parents from the Dorsey Hall, Longfellow, Beaverbrook and Hobbit's Glen neighborhoods asked the board to keep their children in the Centennial district.

Under the proposed redistricting, children in these communities would be sent to Wilde Lake High School, which is about 100 students short of capacity.

David Jackson, like others from Dorsey Hall, appealed for stability, asking the school board to keep the community in the Northfield Elementary, Dunloggin Middle and Centennial High feeder system.

"To treat Dorsey Hall as a parcel of land, or a body of students, to fulfill a redistricting proposal ignores the sense of community that has been nurtured within our neighborhood," Mr. Jackson said. "Please, minimizing disruption of established communities should be a prime concern of the Howard County school system."

Last night's was the final board hearing on redistricting. The board has set a March 16 work session on the proposals and will vote on March 23.

At Tuesday's hearing, Longfellow parents proposed sending Dorsey Hall children to Wilde Lake to meet goals for racial and socio-economic balance at Centennial, which has a largely white student population. They also proposed allowing Dorsey Hall children to stay at Centennial and to make Wilde Lake a magnet school for the arts or technology; or sending Longfellow children to the new high school in the west county in 1996 and allowing Dorsey Hall children to stay at Centennial.

Jan Smyer, chairwoman of a redistricting citizens advisory committee, suggested the school system change the redistricting process to ease parents' concerns.

She asked the board to provide annual reports to communities that are targets of redistricting. "Although we recognize most of us don't welcome change, we owe it to ourselves and more important, to our children, to address the issue of change in a positive way," Ms. Smyer said.

A contingent of Wilde Lake parents praised the school's unique scheduling system, saying it gives their children an opportunity to take advantage of fine arts electives. They also stressed the urgency of redistricting to allow Wilde Lake to remain competitive in sports and to offer students a greater array of course offerings next year.

Wilde Lake parents also criticized the redistricting process and the disparaging remarks that have been made about their school, saying their children are bruised and discouraged.

"It's unfair to [Principal Bonnie Daniel] to run a dog-and-pony show" all over the county, said parent Gene Shipp. "Wilde Lake High School needs children and it needs them now," he said.

On a separate issue, Mount Hebron High School parent Carol Caiazzo urged the board to increase the number of portable classrooms at her school to six. Mount Hebron now has two and is scheduled to get two more next year.

Centennial, with 1,230 students, has only 40 more students than Mount Hebron but will have a total of eight portables next year.

"There is something really wrong here," she said. "Why should one school have more relocatables than a school that is nearly as crowded?"

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