The possible merger of Wilde Lake High School and the School of Technology won't be forced down parents' and students' throats if the community strongly opposes it, Superintendent Michael E. Hickey pledged last week.
Hickey said another possibility -- merging the School of Technology with Centennial High School -- "is being explored seriously."
He heard strong opposition to a Wilde Lake merger from a few voices at Thursday night's Wilde Lake Village Board meeting.
Hickey's concept of a two-campus school tied to Howard Community College, withstudents shuttling among the three campuses to take courses, was received enthusiastically by the school board when he introduced it in June.
A new advisory committee will begin evaluating vocational-technical programs this spring. Hickey said he hopes for a final decision by next December on whether a merger will take place.
Wilde Lakesophomore Jeri Colbert, 15, voiced her opposition in strong terms. "It would be known as the school that has the dregs of the community,"she said. "It takes the two schools with the worst reputations and makes it super bad."
Colbert predicted that SAT scores would drop and that students who feel safe in the Wilde Lake halls would fear physical violence from School of Technology students in a merged school.
"Right now with 800 students, you know everybody," which would not be possible in a larger school, Colbert said. Plans call for 1,800 students at the merged school, although Hickey pointed out that all 1,800 would not be on campus at one time.
Colbert said she believesmost Wilde Lake students oppose the merger.
Some School of Technology students don't like the idea any better. Several students expressed opposition during a discussion with academic school guidance counselors and administrators last week.
"A few indicated that they really liked the identity they have at their home school and would not like to be moved into Wilde Lake," reported Donald E. McBrien, director of pupil services, who attended the session.
School of Technology parent Janet R. Nuse said her daughter reported that most studentspolled by the counselors said they would prefer the present program or conversion of the school to a comprehensive high school.
Village Board member Gregory Siracusa also urged Hickey to consider a comprehensive high school that would be "a super-high-tech school" similarto prestigious technical high schools in New York. "Call it Poly Tech," he said, and offer technological and traditional crafts with academic courses.
Hickey replied that technical schools across the nation that have added academic programs "become manual arts high schools." Adding an academic wing to the existing School of Technology "hasthe risk of just perpetuating an image," he said.
The superintendent said Wilde Lake is the ideal candidate for a merger because of its flexible scheduling and the diversity of its population, but he said Centennial is also under consideration. The two schools are geographically close and Centennial is overcrowded while the School of Technology has excess capacity.
"Do you think you'd be able to sell that to the people at Centennial?" Siracusa asked, prompting laughter from the audience.