Explosion at Centennial HOWARD COUNTY

January 13, 1993

The reaction could not have been more predictable had a bomb been dropped in the middle of the Centennial High School district.

The idea that parents who expected to send their kids to what is considered the premier high school in Howard County would willingly accept a redistricting plan that transfers their children to a school considered substantially inferior is preposterous.

No one expected such a proposal to be embraced, and last week -- in sometimes raucous and bitter fashion -- it was not.

Now that the bomb has been dropped, however, it is time for all parties to consider carefully the ramifications and what should be done in the best interests of all the children involved.

Centennial High School is woefully over-enrolled, a problem expected to worsen in coming years. Wilde Lake High School in Columbia faces under-enrollment during the same period.

The proximity of the two schools makes them ideal candidates for shifts that would address the dual problem.

To do nothing hurts both schools.

But the anger and betrayal felt by Centennial area parents cannot be dismissed. They chose to live in that growing community because of the excellent reputation of the schools within it. They have a right to have their grievances seriously addressed.

When school officials focus as much on the concerns of parents as they do on solving some technical enrollment problems, they will have gone a long way toward improving this situation.

The parents involved in this are not upset simply over the idea of redistricting. It's the fact that Wilde Lake is considered sub-par by their standards.

That any school in a county as wealthy as Howard would be judged as inferior by a large number of parents is outrageous. Either the perception is wrong, or changes at Wilde Lake are long overdue.

Equity demands that redistricting be more than an artificial change in boundary lines and business as usual.

Unless school officials can ensure that Wilde Lake and Centennial are offering a comparable education, a redistricting plan such as this is manifestly unfair.

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