Weakness on schools, progress on halting decay

Comment

November 26, 1995|By Kevin Thomas

JUST A COUPLE of items of import on Columbia:

School officials have temporarily backed away from their proposal to redistrict Columbia Hills in Ellicott City to Wilde Lake High School.

Apparently, when it comes to Wilde Lake, officials just can't resist succumbing to negative pressure.

Two years ago, the Board of Education backed off a proposal to redistrict the community of Dorsey Search into Wilde Lake after pressure from parents who wanted their kids to continue at Centennial.

It was an ugly time for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was the damage done to Wilde Lake's reputation.

The following year, the board reversed itself and reassigned Dorsey.

Replaying history

Now, history seems to be repeating itself with Columbia Hills, only this time the plan is to delay redistricting the community to Wilde Lake until 2000.

If parents in that community had legitimate objections to being BTC redistricted next year, they needed to state them publicly.

But Associate Superintendent Maurice Kalin has removed that option by heeding parent objections much too prematurely.

For parents like Jack Hollerbach, whose Beaverbrook community was redistricted into Wilde Lake two years ago, the Columbia Hills plan is just another one that hurts the high school his children will soon be attending.

And he's right. The lack of further redistricting into Wilde Lake will keep the student population at about 1,270, below its capacity of 1,400.

Existing below capacity forces the school system to trim the courses it offers and deprives the students who are attending the school. A similar problem easily could develop at nearby River Hill High.

Meanwhile, officials plan to install three new relocatable classrooms to handle the overflow of students at Centennial.

"How can we justify assigning relocatables to Centennial when there are two schools with excess capacity nearby?" asks Mr. Hollerbach, who also sits on the county's funding affordability committee and carefully keeps track of budget matters.

Mr. Hollerbach is right, and board members need to reconsider what the administration is asking them to do.

As far as Columbia Hills is concerned, there seems to be a greater emphasis being put on appeasing one community than on having an equitable distribution of students and resources.

Preventing decay

The Columbia Council did itself proud last week, approving a $100,000 loan program that is aimed at assisting residents with modest incomes comply with Columbia homeowner covenants.

The cost of the program, which is being split between Columbia Bank and the First National Bank of Maryland, would allow residents earning $49,400 or less annually to apply for loans of up to $3,000.

The money would be targeted for maintenance and could go either to correct a specific code violation or to prevent one from developing. It could not be used for home improvements that don't involve covenant violations like a room addition.

It would be nice if the program offered loans for all general improvements, but resources are limited and the most serious problems should be addressed first.

Some of Columbia's older neighborhoods are already falling into disrepair and covenant violations have not been easily enforced.

The council has already taken great strides by demanding that ** more violators be taken into court and ordered to comply.

With the loan program, they are now adding what one council member called a "carrot" to assist homeowners whose financial situation sometimes forces them to ignore a violation.

Neighborhoods at stake

This is not only good news for the loan recipient; it will assist entire neighborhoods, which will benefit from avoiding the kind of slow deterioration that can effect all of their property values.

Even residents with higher incomes, although not eligible for a loan, would be encouraged to keep their homes in good repair. There's nothing like a healthy does of keeping-up-with-the-Joneses syndrome.

No word yet on the length of the loans or the interest rates that will be charged.

But if they are attractive enough to encourage residents to live up to their obligations, then Columbia will start stemming the tide of early decay.

L Kevin Thomas is The Sun's editorial writer in Howard County.

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