Hickey rules out proposal to create Wilde Lake performing arts magnet

January 27, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

Superintendent Michael E. Hickey has rejected the idea of a performing arts magnet program at Wilde Lake High School, despite the $1.2 million arts center being built there as part of the school's ground-up reconstruction.

"I'm not even considering this at this time," he said of the magnet program yesterday. "If it happens in the future, it happens. But I'm not going to propose [it now]."

The superintendent said the addition of a performing arts magnet would add too many complications to the school system's redistricting process.

Future enrollment at Wilde Lake will be part of the long-awaited proposal on school boundary lines expected to be unveiled at tonight's 7:30 school board meeting.

No copies of the proposal were available before the meeting, but if a public session earlier this month is any indication, school officials will propose at least two options at the high school level.

Both would change the board's tentative decision last year to transfer Dorsey Hall neighborhood students out of Centennial High and into River Hill High, still under construction and expected to open in 1996.

Under both options, Dorsey Hall students would be redistricted to Wilde Lake, joining Longfellow, Beaverbrook and Hobbit's Glen students. Students from those three neighborhoods are to be transferred out of Centennial to relieve the school's crowding.

The board decided last year to increase Wilde Lake's capacity from just over 900 students to 1,400 students. Wilde Lake is being rebuilt at a cost of more than $20 million in the next two years.

Some Dorsey Hall parents had proposed a performing arts magnet as a way of preventing their children from being transferred to Wilde Lake, under the assumption that space there would be reserved for performing arts students.

Dr. Hickey's rejection of the proposal comes less than a week after the Howard County Arts Council gave details of the $1.2 million performing arts center at Wilde Lake.

The council, the county and the state are expected to chip in $400,000 toward construction of the performing arts center, which will feature 750 seats, a balcony and a separate entrance.

Although he opposes a performing arts magnet program at the school, Dr. Hickey said that the arts center fits well in the central part of town.

He said that many of Columbia's arts venues are located downtown, including Howard Community College's Smith Theatre, the lakefront and Merriweather Post Pavilion.

"I think it's a marvelous project, and I don't think there's anything like this in the country," he said. "I think it's really going to be a model for the nation in the arts."

Among other items on the agenda:

* The release of Scholastic Assessment Tests, Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Tests and Advanced Placement scores for the 1992-1993 school year.

* A report on changes in the language arts program at the elementary school level. There is a shift toward having students read literature, participate in small discussion groups and learn grammar and spelling based on their individual writing needs. In previous years, classroom instruction involved language and spelling textbooks, ditto sheets and workbooks.

Today's school board meeting will take place at 4 p.m. and at 7:30 p.m. at the Department of Education Building, 10910 Route 108 in Ellicott City.

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