Officials close to choosing a name for new school

List down to 3

board to decide next month

February 16, 2003|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

For months, the school scheduled to open in August 2005 in Mount Airy has been referred to as the southwest-area elementary school or, more commonly, the new Mount Airy elementary school.

Now Carroll school officials are close to giving the school an official name - and it's likely to have ties to one of the town's first known schools.

Parr's Ridge Elementary - one of 94 prospective names submitted for the $14.5 million school and one of three finalists being considered - would recognize the crest on which the town sits.

It also is the name of a school that served Mount Airy in 1868.

"There's a lot of history to Parr's Ridge," said Kelly Frager, chairwoman of the committee of parents, school officials and town leaders appointed to develop plans for the new elementary school. "So it will be neat for us when the school opens to drum up some excitement for the school by telling the kids about the history of the name."

Whatever the name chosen by the school board next month, parents and school officials say it will be a relief to be able to call the school something.

"It will be nice to be able to identify further with the school," said Frager, whose two daughters attend Mount Airy Elementary and whose 2-year-old son would start kindergarten, if all goes as planned, at the new school in 2006. "Over the next year here as we start to break ground and see things happening, it will be really exciting for the community because it will no longer be something that's way out there. It's something that will be happening, and happening really soon."

Plucked from a list prospective names submitted by the community, Parr's Ridge Elementary is the recommended choice of Superintendent Charles I. Ecker. School board members briefly - but favorably - discussed the name last week and are scheduled to vote on it at their March 12 meeting.

Parr's Ridge refers not only to the town's location but also to a spring located just beyond town limits from which a branch of the Patapsco River originates. Supporters of the name noted in a letter to Frager's committee that the 1900 census indicated that the town's long-defunct Parr's Ridge school served first through eighth grades.

Other finalists

The committee submitted two other name suggestions - Mount Airy Primary School and Watkins Park Elementary School - for the school board's consideration.

The first is a nod to the new school's serving only kindergartners and first- and second-graders. Faced with the prospect of having two elementary schools whose campuses border each other, school officials decided to convert Mount Airy Elementary into a school for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders and open the new school for primary grades.

Watkins Park Elementary refers to the location of the school. The property on which the park sits will be subdivided to make room for the school. The name, planning committee members noted in their recommendation, is "readily recognizable by the community." Ira Watkins, for whom the park is named, was a Mount Airy resident who served on the Town Council, owned a lumber company and taught at Carroll Community College.

The committee made its suggestions after winnowing the 94-name list of community submissions, including several from Mount Airy Elementary fifth-graders.

Suggestions included the whimsical (Mount Airy Dream Land Elementary) and serious (Todd Beamer Elementary, after the passenger on United Airlines Flight 93 who confronted the terrorist hijackers before the plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field Sept. 11, 2001. Beamer, of New Jersey, is not known to have any connection to Mount Airy.).

More than two dozen submissions invoked references to the area's hilly terrain, including Rolling Ridge Elementary, Ridge Overlook Elementary and Windy Ridge Elementary.

One Mount Airy Elementary fifth-grader suggested naming the school after her mother, Michele Johnson, who founded a group that pushed state and local officials for the new school.

Difficult work ahead

As school officials put finishing touches on construction design documents and prepare to put the project out to bid this spring, facilities director Raymond Prokop is readying for the more difficult work.

"Naming the school is a small step," he said. "It was one of the easiest planning committee meetings we have had because everything else is so complicated. This was not complex."

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