Wilde Lake II: Same Plot, New Ending

February 01, 1994

Howard County school Superintendent Michael E. Hickey recently set the stage for the Wilde Lake-Centennial high school redistricting when he emphatically ruled out a performing arts magnet program at Wilde Lake High. The magnet was favored most by residents of the Dorsey Hall community of Columbia, who have fought being redistricted from the much-touted Centennial school to the much-maligned Wilde Lake.

Dorsey parents were hoping the magnet program would attract students from elsewhere in the county to Wilde Lake, putting the school at maximum capacity and ruling out a Wilde Lake redistricting plan that would envelope their community.

By breaking his previous public silence on the issue, however, Mr. Hickey has helped dispel any notion that the Dorsey community would again hold sway over the school board. The board wilted under the political heat last March when it temporarily sidestepped a decision to redistrict Dorsey Hall. When the board was handed the administration's latest redistricting recommendations late last week, it was anticlimactic. As expected, a proposal to redistrict Dorsey to Wilde Lake by next fall topped the list. It appears virtually certain to happen this time.

Two alternative plans proposed by officials have fatal flaws, however. One would move the Clary's Forest neighborhood of Hickory Ridge from Wilde Lake to the new River Hill High School being built in Clarksville. But Clary's has demographics similar to Dorsey's; redistricting that neighborhood would diminish efforts to better balance the socio-economic mix at Wilde Lake. The second alternative would have an addition built at Centennial to accommodate Dorsey students there. However, with so many of the county's high schools facing unprecedented population increases, building an addition at Centennial merely to placate Dorsey parents would be a colossal waste of resources.

Prudent decision-making would have had the school board redistrict Dorsey to Wilde Lake last year, but board members demurred at the 11th hour. This year, the board has the opportunity to show some courage. Dorsey parents will undoubtedly stage another protest. However, a rerun of last year's theatrics may not play well with the board this time around.

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