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Board rejects open-enrollment plan


Open enrollment at Marriotts Ridge High School will not be an option for underclassmen when the school opens next year, the Howard County Board of Education decided last night.

In a unanimous vote, the board -- with new members Diane Mikulis and Mary Kay Sigaty -- resolved the last issue from a monthslong redistricting process.

Last month, the school board set new high school attendance areas to fill Marriotts Ridge in Marriottsville and relieve crowding at other schools. The school will open next fall with freshmen and sophomores.

Some parents had expressed concerns over the school's population of roughly 570 students in the first year. In particular, they worried that the small enrollment would affect academics and extracurricular options.

The proposal would have allowed for open enrollment only in the 2005-2006 school year and been limited to 100 students.

The school system's staff recommended against the open-enrollment option, and Sandra Erickson, chief of administration and school instruction, assured the board that a full academic program would be provided at Marriotts Ridge.

Student board member Jeff Amoros told the board that each school has an identity defined by the areas it serves, and "open enrollment would hurt that."

Mikulis said she was afraid that allowing open enrollment would set a precedent. Over the years, the school system has moved away from open enrollment, placing a moratorium on the option in 2000 amid criticism that the practice was elitist.

In a related redistricting issue, the school board turned down a motion by Courtney Watson, the school board chairman, that would have allowed 138 sophomores to remain at their high schools next year, except for those slated to move to Marriotts Ridge.

Watson said she wants to avoid splitting siblings and limit disruption caused by redistricting by allowing the 138 students -- now freshmen -- to finish at one school. Watson cast the only vote in favor of her motion.

In other business, the board heard from several people during a public hearing on a potential site for a northeastern elementary school.

Councilman Christopher J. Merdon, an Ellicott City Republican, along with the Wheatfield Homeowners Association and Montgomery Road Citizens for Responsible Growth, said that 21 acres off Montgomery Road in Ellicott City would make a suitable site for the school and provide adequate relief to crowded schools in the north and northeast areas of the county.

The school system is negotiating with Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 7472 and the YMCA, which own portions of the land.

The school board also:

Selected Watson as its chairman for a second term and Patricia S. Gordon as vice chairman.

Approved the removal of the apostrophe from what had been designated Marriott's Ridge High School, which will become the county's 12th high school when it opens at the end of August.

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