Oakland Mills High may become county's third magnet school


Oakland Mills High School could become Howard County's third technology magnet high school -- perhaps as soon as fall 1997 -- because enrollment in the new program is growing faster than expected.

The county school board tentatively identified Oakland Mills on Thursday night as a magnet school if the number of students entering the program continues to be high and extra space is needed.

The board also tentatively set 400 students as the maximum number of students who can enroll in the magnet program at any one school from outside that school's district.

More than 660 freshmen, sophomores and juniors are expected to enter the program at the new River Hill and Long Reach high schools tomorrow, thereby joining the academically rigorous, high-tech replacement for the county's old vo-tech program.

At Long Reach alone, 418 students are enrolled in the program, including 367 who live east of Route 29 but in a high school district other than Long Reach.

School officials are worried that the magnet high schools will become crowded -- and other high schools might become under-enrolled -- if an alternative plan isn't developed.

The board rejected a proposal to have future magnet students take their first two years of prerequisite courses at their neighborhood high schools and then transfer to the magnet schools only for their junior and senior years. Board members said that plan would discourage students from joining the program because they wouldn't want to transfer halfway through high school.

Instead, board members said they were willing to consider making Oakland Mills a third magnet school as soon as next year to accommodate the student interest -- despite the reluctance of school officials to open a third site so soon after opening the first two.

"I would prefer us to assume we would have a third site in the 1997-98 school year" than to force magnet students to change schools after their sophomore year, said board member Stephen Bounds. "I think [forcing students to transfer after two years] will hurt the program."

Pub Date: 8/25/96

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