School Merger Plan Meeting With Chilly Reception

March 15, 1992|By Donna Boller | Donna Boller,Staff report

Merging the School of Technology and Wilde Lake High School is turning out to be a tough sell for School Superintendent Michael E. Hickey.

So are several other possibilities -- such as making the vocational-technical school into a countywide polytechnic school -- Hickey outlined for approximately 60 School of Technology parents and students last week.

"If you combine (the School of Technology) with another high school, it won't be special any more, and it is special," said Chris Kerr, an 11th-grade commercial art student from Howard High. "Regular school is kind of a drag, but vo-tech is different because you're actually doing something with your hands."

The merger also faced opposition from a small audience at the Wilde Lake Village Board meeting in December.

The plan would combine Wilde Lake and the technology school into a two-campus facility that also would have links to Howard Community College. Wilde Lake would become the home school for all vocational-technical students from across the county. Students would ride shuttle buses from campus to campus for academic or technical courses.

The concept is still alive, the superintendent said at Tuesday's meeting. But the budget crunch has forced school officials to think of alternatives if the county lacks the money to build a 10th high school, planned to open in 1996.

If the high school cannot be built, one alternative is to make the technology school into a comprehensive high school, Hickey said. The building could gain an academic wing in 1994 if school officials decide to use its excess capacity to house students from overcrowded Centennial and Mount Hebron high schools. Redistricting will relieve the two schools after a 1994 Wilde Lakerenovation and expansion that will bring the school's capacity from 800 to 1,200.

Parents and students voiced fears that Hickey's proposals might hurt their program or force average students out of classes to make room for college-bound students who want to take one course in, for example, electronics.

"Are average students going to getbumped out of classes because some Ivy Leaguer has to take one course?" asked parent Sandy Byerly.

Hickey said the current half-day commitment is a serious deterrent for students who want to take technical courses, but can't meet college academic requirements if they spend a half-day at the vocational-technical school.

Parents and students roundly condemned guidance counselors for discouraging students from enrolling in the technology school and for perpetuating a negative image of the school.

"I say, 'I go to Vo-Tech,' and people say 'Grits (the antithesis of preppies) only go there,' " said Jennifer Myers, a 12th-grade drafting student from Mount Hebron. A cheerleader and student government representative, Jennifer said she believes she has changed some attitudes about the technology school among Hebron students.

Hickey emphasized that the school's image needs changing,but while he asked parents and students to take responsibility for getting the word out and recruiting new students, they turned the taskback to him.

"It seems that as the top person in our school system, you have the real responsibility to educate the teachers and guidance counselors, especially the guidance counselors," said one man said who did not give his name.

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