Fifteen-year-old MaryKate Morani swept aside the curtain of beads hanging over her bedroom door and stepped into her room in Ellicott City. White lacrosse shorts from her days on the junior varsity team at Mount Hebron High School lay on the floor. Hanging on her closet door was a black hooded Mount Hebron sweat shirt with her nickname, "McKizzle," emblazoned on the back.
MaryKate wasn't sure what she would do with all the gear from her old school. She had been there only one year before she and about 300 other students at Mount Hebron were redistricted to Marriotts Ridge. She might wear the old clothes around the house or just to hang out, but she couldn't wear them to her new school. That would be weird.
She doesn't have anything that says Marriotts Ridge on it -- yet. She has made the school's junior varsity soccer team; and she hopes to play lacrosse there as well.
"I guess I'll have to wait till school starts to really get into the Mustangs," she said on a recent afternoon.
The thought that she might have to change schools has been in MaryKate's mind since she was an eighth-grader at Mount View Middle School. That was when school officials began talking in earnest about building a high school in the northern region of the county. MaryKate just knew she would be targeted.
Still, she threw herself into life at Mount Hebron. She sat on her bedroom floor and flipped through her pictures of freshman year: There was the time that cake was smooshed into her face after a soccer game. There was her older sister, a rising senior at Hebron, dressed as a showgirl for the homecoming parade. There were her lacrosse teammates, hugging each other and smiling on the track and on the bus.
"Leaving, it's like starting all over again," she said.
The upside is that MaryKate will be among the oldest students at school. School officials decided to open Marriotts Ridge with only freshmen and sophomores to avoid redistricting upperclassmen, who may be more rooted at their schools.
MaryKate said she was a little worried that the move would make Marriotts Ridge feel like middle school all over again -- especially because almost all the kids from her eighth-grade class will be there. But at least they will be familiar faces. And her closest friends have all been redistricted as well, so at least everyone can move together.
"At first it was really upsetting. We made our place at Hebron . . . and we didn't want to be taken out of it," she said. "But I guess now I'm just going to go with it. There's nothing I can do."
She plans to join the school's student transition team, which will help foster school spirit and unity. She said she's a joiner and hopes for lots of good clubs. Overall, she said, she is excited about the new school year, if only because it means that she's a year older.
"It'll be nice to not be a freshman anymore," she said.