Concerned that their families will be split and their children shortchanged academically and athletically, a handful of South Carroll parents complained to the school board yesterday and asked that their children be exempted from attending the new Century High when it opens in August.
Debby Harman of Sykesville has two girls at Liberty High. Last year, when Harman's ninth-grader was nervous about attending high school, her daughter in 10th grade showed her younger sister the ropes in what proved to be a bonding experience for the girls.
Now, the younger daughter is slated to attend Century High while the elder remains at Liberty.
"I'm very concerned that you want to split my family up," Harman told the board. "The school board wants parent participation. But I can't be torn between two schools. I cannot be running up and down the road between two schools giving them 100 percent of my time."
Others protested that students at Century initially will not have varsity sports and that courses at their current high schools might not be available at the new one.
Century High, under construction in Eldersburg, is set to open next year with about 500 students in ninth and 10th grades. Within three years, its enrollment in all four grades is expected to reach its capacity of 1,200.
Rather than have Liberty and South Carroll juniors and seniors graduate from a new school, a committee of parents and school officials opted to transfer only the lower two grades to Century.
Faced with more than a dozen requests from families at Liberty High and South Carroll High, school officials considered whether to allow students to remain at the high school that their siblings attend.
But because of the extreme crowding in the schools in the southern portion of the county, a committee of county school officials decided not to adjust the criteria for allowing students to attend another county school.
"I can empathize with the concern of these families," pupil services director Cynthia Little told the board.
"But we felt equally important was the enrollment at Century and the impact changing that would have on the schools," she said.
School officials have identified 94 Century students who have brothers or sisters at Liberty or South Carroll high schools - a figure that represents about one-fifth of Century's projected first enrollment.
Board member Thomas G. Hiltz, who presided over yesterday's meeting in the absence of board President Susan W. Krebs, asked interim Superintendent Charles I. Ecker and his staff to see what can be done.
"I don't think all the possibilities have been explored here," he said. Families also can appeal Little's decision to the superintendent, the Carroll school board and finally the State Board of Education.
In other business:
Century Principal David Booz asked the board to find $60,000 for items that were overlooked or done incorrectly in the new school, from additional television outlets in science labs and a school sign out front to a ball field fence and doors wide enough to move mats in and out of wrestling and weight rooms.
"The idea is that we're building a new school," he said. "We should do our absolute best to get it right."
With an eye on the budget, which is $108,000 from being completely allocated, construction supervisor Raymond Prokop described the dilemma as a "crossroads."
Ecker and his staff will recommend a solution to the board next month.
Nevertheless, Hiltz asked his colleagues to remember the big picture.
"We're talking about $60,000 out of a $35 million project," he said. "It seems there has to be some way we can support that."
The board approved spending $212,850 to keep construction of the new Winters Mill High School in Westminster on track despite long stretches of cold weather.
The expenditure will allow construction crews to remove frozen soil, replace it with stone and accelerate work in other areas of the building to keep the project on schedule.