Mount Airy officials will follow the advice of Frederick and Carroll commissioners and form a task force to study the possibility of a regional high school.
"Since we've been given that charge, we will be pursuing that," Mayor Gerald R. Johnson said after a meeting yesterday with the Frederick and Carroll commissioners.
Mr. Johnson said he didn't know how soon a committee would be appointed, but its membership would include representatives from both counties, as well as Montgomery and Howard counties, which border Mount Airy. The town straddles the Frederick-Carroll county line.
"I see Mount Airy initiating a small group to talk about a regional high school," said Frederick Commissioner Bruce Reeder.
Frederick Commissioner Sue Ann Yingling said the group shouldn't include just Frederick and Carroll counties because "[Mount Airy] is so close to Howard and Montgomery counties."
Carroll commissioners supported the effort.
"I think it's a concept that should be looked at," Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said.
A regional high school was one of several issues Mount Airy officials broached during a meeting at the town fire hall with Frederick and Carroll commissioners. Other issues included road and police funding and the Western Maryland Health Planning Agency.
Most of the discussion focused on a regional high school, something that has been bandied about for years, town officials said. Mount Airy had a high school until it was merged with the old Sykesville High to form South Carroll High in 1967.
"To a lot of people, [a high school serving different school systems is] a no-no right off the bat," Mr. Johnson said.
But he said a regional high school is a cost-effective way of meeting educational needs in both counties. The nearest high schools -- Linganore in Frederick and South Carroll -- are both overcrowded, he said.
Town officials said it made no sense for Frederick's Twin Ridge Elementary to be a mile from Carroll's Mount Airy Elementary.
"It would have been nice to have one elementary school for area students," Mr. Johnson said.
But Ms. Yingling said population growth dictated the need for another elementary school. In building the school, there was some cooperation between Frederick and Carroll school systems waiving tuition for out-of-county students, she said.
She also said Frederick County is planning a high school in Urbana that will alleviate overcrowding at Linganore High School. The school's cost is about $30 million, she said.
"I really think it's a good possibility that we could have a joint high school," said Mount Airy Town Council President R. Delaine Hobbs said. "I don't know where you're going to put all the [incoming] kids. Our roads can't handle all [the development]."
Frederick Commissioner Gail T. Bowerman said having the counties cooperate to build a regional high school was complicated because of funding and curriculum decisions.
Ms. Yingling said regional high schools have been built on the Eastern Shore between counties where population didn't warrant a single county high school.
But she warned town officials that the state will not help defray building costs for a new school unless there are student population numbers to back the need.
"I think we can justify the need for it," Mr. Hobbs said.
Mayor Johnson said the only thing preventing a high school is "individual egos" and turf concerns.
Mount Airy resident Debby Paisie said the area can't wait until statistics justify the need for an additional school. She said classrooms are crowded now and development continues to suburbanize Mount Airy.
"I think we need to bypass the state and build our own school," said Ms. Paisie. "We can't wait 10 years."