Huntingtown High School will open in Calvert County in 2004 with students in all four grades, but seniors will be able to apply for transfers if they want to graduate from their old high school, according to a proposal released this week by Calvert County public schools.

"The three existing high schools are terribly overcrowded," Assistant Superintendent Kenneth Horsmon said. "The more kids we can get out of [there] the better."

The plan, which is scheduled for a vote by the Board of Education in January, answers the question of whether the new high school would open with a senior class, an issue with practical implications for sports teams and curriculum offerings. But it was a question that also carried emotional impact for seniors worried about being forced to attend a new school for their last year. The transfer option appears to appease that concern.

"We know how attached students get to their high school," Horsmon said. Students in the Class of 2005 must submit their transfer requests in writing no later than Dec. 1, 2003.

However, Horsmon said, some minimum number of students -- as yet not established -- will be needed to fill Huntingtown's first graduating class of 2005.

School system staff have discussed for months how to move students and staff into the new school. Their recommendations have become known as the "implementation plan" for Huntingtown High School.

At the same time, a separate committee of citizens and school staff has finished drawing new high school attendance boundaries. The committee will present the redistricting plan to the school board in early January with public hearings to follow.

Few Calvert County high school parents or students will be left untouched by redistricting, and middle school families also will be affected by the process.

Shifting boundaries means that the northern part of the Patuxent High School zone -- White Sands, Calvert Beach, Long Beach, St. Leonard and Mutual -- will become the southern part of Calvert High School's attendance zone, Horsmon said. As a result, the board will consider whether to send upcoming ninth-grade students who live in those areas to Calvert next fall, instead of having them switch into the school after one year.

Thomas Coffren, 13, is a real-life example of what that would mean. If he attends Calvert instead of Patuxent next year, he would be the only one of the four Coffren siblings not to attend Patuxent. His older sister Erin, 15, is a sophomore at Patuxent.

His mother, Judy Coffren, said she is less than thrilled at having her children at different schools because driving them to after-school activities would be difficult. In addition, she saw her two older children grow close when they attended Patuxent together and she wants that for her two younger children.

Erin is in the Class of 2005 at Patuxent, but the boundary changes would move her to Calvert for her senior year. She said she lost friends twice in middle school during the last two redistrictings.

"Well, if it's the same situation and I could be split up from friends, I don't want to go through that again," she said.

Also, she said, her class ring arrived this week. It says "Patuxent High School."