THE BANQUET ROOM in the Sly Horse Tavern on Crofton's Village Green is typically the site of such events as receptions or retirement parties - its elegance appropriate to quiet dining and happy social events.
Wednesday evening, the room was filled to overflowing for a different sort of event, with parents, politicians and community leaders renewing pursuit of a goal that has eluded West County for many years: a new high school to serve the growing area.
Like many other parents, I have been watching the development of plans for a new high school - it would be the county's 13th - for a long time.
In 1975, land for a high school was purchased next to the site of Crofton Middle School. In 1985, when my son was in kindergarten, the projection was for him to attend the new school.
He is halfway through college now, and the school isn't in the budget.
Three years ago, the Arundel Overcrowding Committee responded to a request from county schools Superintendent Carol S. Parham for a plan to deal with increased crowding at Arundel High.
Out of that committee came the present arrangement in which two elementary school districts in Crofton were reassigned to the feeder system for South River High School, which had lower enrollment.
However, the committee made it clear that this would be only a stopgap solution.
The population figures used by the school board clearly showed that, within a short time, Arundel and South River high schools would be crowded. A new high school would be needed to provide classrooms for children moving into this fast-growing part of the county.
Sharon Puckett, legislative chairwoman of the Thirteenth High School Now Committee, has a personal interest in the project. Her older son is a second-grader at Crofton Woods Elementary School, and her younger son is in preschool.
She also was recently chosen to lead the Education Committee of the Crofton Civic Association (CCA). When Puckett and the other members of the newly elected CCA Board were discussing issues important to people in our area, a new high school led the list.
The Thirteenth High School Now Committee was formed as a result of work done by community groups over the past few years. Co-leading the committee are Crofton Civic Association President Rich Trunnell and Greater Crofton Council President Dirk Haire.
Other leaders, community groups and businesses have joined the effort, including state Dels. Janet Greenip, David G. Boschert and Robert C. Baldwin, County Councilman John J. Klocko III, the Greater Crofton Chamber of Commerce, the Anne Arundel County Council of Parent Teacher Associations and the Crofton Kiwanis Club.
At Wednesday's meeting, Puckett told the audience that the committee's goal is to secure funding from the Board of Education to plan a school.
The school budget does not include money to begin studying a 13th high school until fiscal year 2004. The committee is asking the superintendent to include $1.6 million for planning a school in the fiscal year 2002 budget, which is being considered this fall.
The committee is asking members of the community to contact County Executive Janet S. Owens, Parham and Board of Education President Paul Rudolph, requesting that the planning funds be approved.
The committee is urging that as many people as possible attend the public budget hearing, scheduled for 10 a.m. on Sept. 20 at the Board of Education offices on Riva Road in Annapolis.
The committee also has set up a Web site, www.13thhighschool. org, which has information on the project.
At the Web site, people can find information about the project, how to contact local officials and notices of upcoming meetings and activities.
Information: Web site or 301-858-1219.
School link to Japan
As the school year begins, fourth-graders at Crofton Woods Elementary School will take part in a new program that has everyone excited. MARJIS, the Mid-Atlantic Region Japan in the Schools program, is a collaboration between the University of Maryland and Japanese and American schools.
Crofton Woods is one of four schools in the mid-Atlantic region taking part.
This summer, fourth-grade teacher Marie Thacker attended a MARJIS orientation at the University of Maryland. During the school year, Crofton Woods pupils will share information about their school and culture with children at a sister school in Japan.
The children expect to share letters, pictures and maybe even e-mail. Staff at the university will help facilitate the interaction and serve as translators when necessary.
Thacker is excited about working with her Japanese counterparts. Next year, she plans to visit the Japanese sister school and hopes to welcome a Japanese teacher here.
Picnic volunteers sought
Teen-agers in grades six through 12 are needed to help out at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton's Parish Picnic from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 24. Volunteers are needed as ticket takers, face-painters and organizers for children's games. Entertainers such as musicians and magicians would also be welcomed.
Information: Jack O'Malley at 410-721-5775.