MOUNT AIRY has always had a split personality, straddling as it does the Carroll-Frederick county line. Nearby residents of Howard and Montgomery counties also call the town home, even if they live just outside the municipal boundaries. While the municipality makes its own local laws, most of the major issues related to planning and development are decided at the county and state levels of government. Because it lies at a far corner of Carroll and Frederick counties, Mount Airy sometimes considers itself the neglected child of both.
Nowhere is this felt as strongly as on the question of schools, where children on one side of the county line go to Carroll schools and those on the other to Frederick schools.
Last year, Mount Airy leaders proposed a bicounty, regional high school -- with shared funding and administration. The town's sense of community suffered from lack of identification with a local high school, officials argued. With 8,000 households in the greater Mount Airy area, a sufficient enrollment exists to support a local high school. The idea quickly sank, however, a victim of Maryland's education structure, which empowers each jurisdiction to make its own decisions. Each system has its way of doing business, and of managing personnel, calendars and budgets. The prospect of two counties coming together to run one public high school presented insurmountable problems, experts concluded.
Now Mount Airy is taking another approach to stabilize its school population: greater coordination in tracking growth and housing developments on both sides of town. While the municipality knows what housing is built within its boundaries, it needs better information from the two counties on nearby housing expansion outside town limits. All three governments must coordinate housing information to avoid the unexpected overwhelming of local (but county-operated) schools.
With Carroll and Frederick counties actively working on growth-control plans, this is the time to improve this exchange of information. "We need to inform each other of what is going on xTC so we don't defeat what [the counties] are trying to do," Mayor Gerald R. Johnson says. The school boards should also be in this loop, to improve facilities planning.
Pub Date: 2/26/98