Proposal for a Mount Airy-area high school remains in limbo SOUTHWEST -- Mount Airy * Woodbine * Taylorsville * Winfield

April 23, 1993|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

Neither Carroll nor Frederick County school officials have plans to build a high school in Mount Airy during the next decade.

But officials in the two counties haven't dismissed the possibility that a regional high school could be built to serve both counties.

"I understand school administrators aren't hot on the idea, and I understand where there might be a lot of problems," said Carroll Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy. "But there might be a lot of benefits. I think we should get away from the lethargy and look into this."

Frederick and Carroll commissioners met with Mount Airy officials two months ago to discuss a regional high school and other issues. Government leaders agreed that Mount Airy should appoint a task force to study whether a regional high school is feasible.

"Nothing further has happened," said Mount Airy Mayor Gerald R. Johnson. "I talked to a couple of people that I was hoping would chair the committee. They were willing to work on the committee but not serve as chairs."

Mr. Johnson said he is looking for someone to head a committee that would include representatives from Montgomery and Howard counties. Mount Airy straddles Frederick and Carroll counties and is near the corners of Howard and Montgomery.

Dawn Hatzer, an administrative assistant to the Frederick commissioners, said the board has not discussed the issue further. While the commissioners are conscious of Mount Airy's concerns, she said, the school "is not real high on the priority list."

Earlier this year, Mount Airy officials pressed Frederick planners to include a Mount Airy high school in the county's update of the New Market Region Plan, but planners said the feasibility of a bicounty school had not been evaluated.

"It's a proposal that I think would represent an unconventional approach in providing educational services," said Frederick planner Ray Barnes. "Beyond that, we have to be careful about locating a high school in Mount Airy because we have a high school in the proximity."

Frederick has a high school in nearby Linganore and has plans to build high schools in the Linganore-New Market area and in Urbana.

"We haven't ruled out consideration of a bicounty school," Mr. Barnes said. "We have not evaluated that possibility. We think the elected officials and board of education officials would have to consider the feasibility before we could realistically plan that."

Mr. Lippy said government officials should be interested in getting "the most bang for the buck," which could be realized through shared costs of construction and operation.

"It deserves to be looked at, and we should look at appointing a joint task force to see where it works," Mr. Lippy said. "We need to accumulate data so we can get the pros and cons and weigh them. Then we'll know whether we should discard or accept the idea."

A Maryland Department of Education spokesman said he was not aware of any counties in the state that are jointly operating schools. He said a consortium of Eastern Shore schools, however, jointly operate special education facilities.

Carroll school board President Carolyn L. Scott said she was only vaguely familiar with the proposal and that the issue hasn't been addressed by the school board. She said including Howard and Montgomery counties "sounds like a complicated procedure."

Some residents remain adamant about the need for a high school.

"I've just begun to fight," said Debby Paisie, a Mount Airy resident who has two elementary-age children. "I'm not giving up. I'm worried about the quality of education my kids are going to receive when kids are being squeezed into classrooms."

Vernon F. Smith Jr., Carroll's director of support services, said the county has no plans to build another high school in southwest Carroll or to expand South Carroll High School.

"Any future needs will be met well after the turn of the century," Mr. Smith said.

Expected overcrowding at South Carroll High School will be alleviated with the construction of a new Westminster High School. When that school opens, students who attend Friendship Valley Elementary School will no longer be part of the South Carroll feeder system.

A Mount Airy high school has been talked about for years. Mount Airy had a high school until it was merged with the old Sykesville High to form South Carroll High in 1967.

"We fought hard to keep our school here," said Lewis Dixon, a former Mount Airy mayor. "We have fought very hard for the Frederick and Carroll Boards of Education to serve this corner of the county.

"The problem was and continues to be the ineptness of the county Boards of Education and their unwillingness to serve the people," he said.

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