- Before and After School Care
- Bus Transportation
- Homework Guidelines
- Students’ Personal Property
- Photographing, Videotaping or Audiotaping in Schools with Cell or Smart Phones
- Accommodations for Religious Observance
- Resolving School Concerns and Disagreements
By state law, children must attend school from ages 5 to 16. The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) has defined full and partial day attendance as follows:
- A student is counted present for a full day if the student is in attendance four hours or more of the school day.
- A student is counted present for half day if the student is in attendance for at least two hours of the school day, but less than four hours.
- A student scheduled for less than a full day is to be counted present based on the amount of time he/she is scheduled.
A note from the parent must be submitted to the school within two school days of the student’s return, indicating the date and reason for tardiness or absence from a regular school session. A doctor’s certificate is required in cases of long-term absence due to illness. A note should also be submitted to request early dismissal or exclusion from activities (e.g., physical education). Chronic absences are referred to the Department of Special Education and Student Services. See page 22 for more information.
Before and After School Care
Before and After Care is offered at all elementary schools and some middle schools. Care is provided by the Columbia Association (410-715-3100) or the Department of Recreation and Parks (410-313-4651). For more information, visit www.hcpss.org/schools/bacare.shtml.
HCPSS provides bus transportation for all elementary and middle school students who live more than one mile from their assigned school, and for high school students who live more than one and one-half miles from their assigned school. Transportation services are provided for certain students with disabilities depending upon their special needs and school assignment.
Students are expected to be at their bus stop five minutes before the scheduled pick-up time, to exercise safe behavior on school buses, and to adhere to the following rules, which are posted on each bus:
- Follow directions from the driver the first time they are given.
- Stay seated in your seat at all times while the bus is in motion.
- Keep all parts of your body inside the bus.
- Keep hands, feet, legs, arms, personal property and your voice to yourself.
- No eating, smoking, drinking or vulgar language at any time on the bus.
Unsafe behavior on the bus may result in temporary or permanent loss of riding privileges.
Cameras are used on school buses. Video and audio recordings are used to assist in the investigation of complaints on school buses. For more information, please call 410-313-6732 or visit www.hcpss.org/ schools/transportation/.
Lunch and breakfast are available to all students at all schools. Each meal is nutritionally balanced following USDA regulations and Institute of Medicine (IOM) Standards.
Parents may open a pre-paid account for their child at www.schoolpaymentsolutions. com. Students are to use their pin number at the point of service terminal and either draw from their pre-paid account or pay cash for the meal or a la carte item.
Students from households that meet federal income guidelines are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. To apply, families should complete the application sent home on the first day of school, sign it, and return it to the school, or mail it to the Food and Nutrition Service Office (address on application) or parents can apply online at www.applyforlunch.com. School lunch menus, nutrition information and additional information about the program are available at www.hcpss.org/foodservice. Contact the Food and Nutrition Service Office at 410‑313‑6738.
To ensure that each student meets or exceeds rigorous performance and achievement standards, HCPSS must assist students in maintaining and extending their learning. The appropriate design, use, and evaluation of regular homework assignments are all integral pieces needed to achieve that goal.
Throughout all grades, teachers will provide homework. Homework can help students reinforce previously taught skills, explore and extend knowledge, prepare for future lessons, challenge and inspire independent learning, and explore new talents and skills. It must be useful, responsive, engaging, varied and challenging. Homework also enables parents to take an active role in their child’s education by monitoring academic progress and reinforcing lessons at home. All schools develop and implement a set of comprehensive homework guidelines based upon the following countywide criteria.
- Individual schools must provide information to parents about the school’s, team’s, and teacher’s homework guidelines, the student’s homework responsibilities, and how parents can help monitor, assist, and discuss homework. Each school will communicate this information clearly to parents at the beginning of every school year.
- Teachers will review homework and provide feedback to students in a timely manner.
- Homework should be planned so that students see the relationship of their homework to classwork, see meaning in their assignments, have a clear understanding of the procedures and due dates, and understand how their homework is evaluated.
- Each school will develop clear guidelines for dealing with late or missing homework, as well as determine the percentage of grades that can be derived from homework assignments.
- Homework will be differentiated to meet the needs of individual students and curricula.
- Homework may be reviewed or evaluated as part of class activities; however, class time should not be used for the completion of homework.
- Homework patterns should change to help prepare students for the transition to the types and amount of homework they will receive as they move from elementary school to middle school to high school.
- Because all students may not have ready access to electronic communications outside their school building, no assignments are to be given to students electronically when schools are not in session, including during emergency closings. In addition, students are not to be required to submit previously assigned work electronically if the due dates occur during emergency closings.
- One to five hours of homework a week are suggested for elementary school students. Homework assignments usually reinforce previously taught skills, and may prepare students for future lessons, promote creativity, and/or be a reflection on the student’s day at school.
- County and state mandated testing are legitimate reasons for modifying homework assignments.
- Elementary school students may have more than one teacher. Therefore, teams of teachers need to coordinate activities and projects so that reasonable amounts of homework are given across subjects each night, and so that opportunities for integrating subjects are maximized.
- Five to 10 hours of homework a week are suggested for middle school students. Homework assignments may reinforce previously taught skills, prepare students for future lessons, extend learning, promote creativity, and/or be a reflection on the student’s day at school.
- County and state mandated testing are legitimate reasons for modifying homework assignments.
- Middle school students have more than one teacher. Therefore, teams of teachers need to coordinate activities and projects so that reasonable amounts of homework are given across subjects each night, and so that opportunities for integrating subjects are maximized.
- Seven to 15 hours of homework a week are suggested for high school students, recognizing that some classes might require them to spend more or less time than is typical. Homework assignments may reinforce previously taught skills, prepare students for future lessons, extend learning, promote creativity, and/ or be a reflection on the student’s day at school.
- County and state mandated testing, and exam weeks are legitimate reasons for modifying homework assignments.
- A syllabus is recommended for distribution at the beginning of every semester outlining each course’s requirements; including homework assignments, projects, possible due dates, and procedures for requesting feedback on assignments.
- High school students have more than one teacher. Therefore, teams of teachers need to coordinate activities and projects so that reasonable amounts of homework are given across subjects each night, and so that opportunities for integrating subjects are maximized.
There will be no mandatory homework given over the summer. Any work assigned over the summer will be voluntary and non-graded enrichment activities. Reading lists will be available during the summer, as well as throughout the school year, as a service to students who want an opportunity to work ahead.
Students’ Personal Property
Students are responsible for personal property brought into a school, on school grounds, school-sponsored events such as a field trip, or on a school bus. This includes items that are relevant to instructional programs or extracurricular activities, such as musical instruments. Storage for these items is limited at schools. Students are not to ask school staff to hold or store a personal item for a period of time.
Students are strongly discouraged from bringing items of significant sentimental and/or monetary value to school. Students who store items in a locker or other schoolprovided areas do so voluntarily, and are responsible for the security of any keys or combinations in their possession. The school system will not be responsible for lost or stolen items.
School staff have the right to confiscate cell phones and electronic devices seen during the school day if they are being used in unauthorized areas or at unauthorized times; school administrators have the right to require a parent to pick up the confiscated device. School personnel also may confiscate personal property if its possession or use on school grounds or at school events violates system policies or school rules. The property will be returned to the student’s parent/guardian after a parent conference. Substances or items that are illegal to possess, will be given to law enforcement officials or retained for disciplinary proceedings. Staff will take reasonable precautions to protect the property until dispersal is determined. Parents who have questions or a claim regarding lost or damaged student property, should contact Safety, Environment and Risk Management at 410-313-6739.
Photographing, Videotaping or Audiotaping in Schools with Cell or Smart Phones
Parents have a right to expect a certain level of protection and privacy for their children while they are in the care of HCPSS. As a protective measure, parents and others who are not school employees who intend to photograph, videotape or audiotape students in school or on school grounds during the regular instructional day using smart phones, cell phones or other devices must have prior approval from the building administrator. This does not apply to photographing, videotaping or audiotaping during extracurricular activities, such as public concerts and athletic events.
Classrooms, lunchrooms, etc. are not open public property and the principal has the right to control public access. Individuals who violate these guidelines will receive an initial warning. Repeat violations may result in the issue of a no trespassing letter.
View more information on the public use of student photographs.
Accommodations for Religious Observance
The Board is committed to promoting respect and appreciation for religions, beliefs and customs of its diverse school population. The Board is committed to providing reasonable accommodations for religious obligations.
Parents should complete the Absence for Religious Obligation form and submit the request to the principal/designee documenting the need for the absence. Requests should be submitted, whenever possible, at the beginning of the school year. If the student’s absence is approved, the absence will be considered a lawful absence either for the day or any portion of the day.
A student may make up work and receive a recorded grade when an absence for religious observance is approved. This includes opportunities to make up any missed tests or assignments.
If the Absence for Religious Obligation form is not received prior to the student’s absence, the absence may be coded as unexcused.
Board policies related to religious observance apply to student participation in athletic practices and games, as well as other extracurricular activities.
Students are excused from attendance at, or participation in, any extracurricular activity when their attendance or participation conflicts with their religious observance. Athletic practices and events are optional for students on any religious holiday.
Maryland State School Law requires that public schools be closed on the following:
- Thanksgiving Day and the day after
- Christmas Eve through January 1
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
- Presidents’ Day
- The Friday before Easter through the Monday after Easter
- Memorial Day
- Primary and General Election Days
In addition, the school system is also closed on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Resolving School Concerns and Disagreements
When concerns arise, parents are encouraged to direct their concerns to the persons most closely involved. However, when an informal process fails to provide resolution, a parent may file a formal complaint and seek review at a higher administrative level. In both processes, the intent is to protect the confidentiality and preserve the dignity of everyone involved.
- The first level in resolving concerns and issues is to address them with the school staff member who is most closely and directly involved to reach a mutually effective resolution.
- The second level of resolution is to contact a member of the school’s administrative team. The administrator will take into consideration the needs of all parties as well as all applicable HCPSS policies and procedures.
- The administrator will confirm that the parent has attempted to resolve the issue or concern with the classroom teacher or other school-based staff member, when appropriate.
- If the concern requires the involvement of other Central Office departments, the administrator will assist the parent in accessing the appropriate office and provide a synopsis of the concern to that office. Central Office personnel will respond to the parent within 10 school days and inform the principal of the response.
If an assistant principal works on resolving a concern and a parent is not satisfied with the result, the parent should then contact the principal. The principal must be involved in resolving the concern prior to moving to the formal process.
- The first level of the formal process is to outline specific concerns by completing Part I of the Parent Concern Form and submit this form to the principal, accessible at www.hcpss.org/files/form_parentalconcern.pdf.
- The principal will contact the parent within three school days to arrange a mutually agreed upon meeting date and time.
- The principal will formally document any agreements that are made at the meeting. The principal will follow up the meeting by completing Part II of the Parent Concern Form, summarizing the outcome of the meeting, identifying areas of agreement, and laying out steps to address any issues still unresolved. This response will be sent within 10 school days from the date of the meeting.
If a concern cannot be resolved reasonably within the 10 school days, the principal may extend the time for not more than 10 additional school days. The parent will be informed of the extension in writing.
- The parent will sign and return the Parent Concern Form. Signing indicates receipt of the form.
If the issue is not resolved satisfactorily, or the concern directly involves the principal, the parent can contact the appropriate Administrative Director in the Division of Instruction to review the concern. The Administrative Director will request the principal to forward copies of all applicable documentation to the Central Office. Parents may also submit applicable documentation.
- The second level in the formal process is a review by the appropriate Administrative Director. Upon receipt of the applicable documentation, the Administrative Director will:
- Contact the parent.
- Confer with the parent, principal, and other appropriate staff.
- Document any decisions or agreements, respond in writing to the parent within 10 school days of receipt of the request, and forward copies to the principal.
- If the parent is not satisfied with the decision of the Administrative Director, the parent may request that the matter be reviewed by the Executive Director, School Improvement and Administration, who serves as the Superintendent’s designee. A parent desiring this review must submit a written request to the Executive Director explaining the concern and clearly stating the outcome or relief desired by the parent. The Executive Director will review the documentation and provide a written response within 15 school days of receipt of the request.
*Note: Specific information can be obtained from the Public Information Office regarding the formal process for addressing issues specifically governed by regulation or Board of Education policy, including requests for reasonable accommodations or modifications under the Americans for Disabilities Act, special education appeals, appeals of student suspensions/ expulsions or other administrative actions, equity assurance concerns or discrimination complaints, and requests for information under the Maryland Public Information Act.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a concern?
A concern is a matter of interests or importance that a parent feels is not being addressed satisfactorily. Concerns may fall into various categories. Below are some examples of concerns.
- HCPSS Employee: An employee fails to respond to a parent’s communication in a timely manner.
- Course Placement: A teacher denies a parent request for a course/class change for a student.
- Policy Violation: An HCPSS employee fails to abide by a school system policy
- Homework: A parent is concerned about the amount of homework assigned to their child.
- Grades: A parent disagrees with a teacher about a grade that was assigned.
This above list is not intended to be exhaustive but provide examples of what could be considered a concern.
How does anyone report a concern?
There are two ways to report a concern: 1) Using the informal process, which does not require filling in a Parent Concern Form and 2) Using the formal process, and completing Part I of the Parent Concern Form that can be found here: www.hcpss.org/files/form_parentalconcern.pdf
What is the difference between an informal process and a formal process?
The main difference is that the formal process involves documenting the concerns utilizing the Parent Concern Form. Additionally, the formal process has defined timelines for HCPSS personnel to take action.
What is the benefit of documenting your concern via the Parent Concern Form?
Once you document your concern via the Parent Concern Form, you are essentially filing a formal complaint. With the formal complaint, there are timelines for response by HCPSS personnel and there is documentation that follows the concern.
Is it beneficial to contact the BOE or Superintendent directly?
Unfortunately, not following the parent concern process identified may delay the review and resolution of your concern. It is important to direct the concern to the person who is most directly involved. This helps to arrive at a more timely resolution.
What should I do if I haven’t heard back from my Parent Concern in a timely manner?
If the situation requires a follow up, remind the administrator of your outstanding parent concern that has not been addressed. If the follow up meeting does not occur or if the response from the administrator is not satisfactory escalate your concern to the next level.
What is the expected timeframe for hearing a response from a concern that was reported?
The start of an investigation regarding a parent concern begins with a signed form with Part I populated. For the informal process, there is no expected timeline documented for the complaint being resolved; however, the formal process has the following time requirements:
- The person to whom the concern was reported has three school days to set up a mutually agreed upon date and time to meet.
- After meeting, the HCPSS administrator is to respond within ten school days of the meeting to fill in Part II and respond to the complainant. However, if the administrator determines they will not resolve the complaint in the initial ten school days following the meeting, they can request an additional ten school days, but the complainant must be informed.
- If escalated to the Administrative Director, the HCPSS Administrative Director must respond within ten school days from the receipt of the request with the applicable documentation. Visit the following site for contact details for Administrative Directors: http://www.hcpss.org/contact-us/administrative-directors/
- If the response by the Administrative Director is not satisfactory to the complainant, the complainant can contact the Executive Director who serves as the Superintendent’s Designee. The complainant must submit a written request and the Executive Director is to respond within fifteen school days from receipt of the request.
What do I do if I escalated the concern to the Executive Director and still am not satisfied? Should I escalate the concern to the Superintendent?
The Executive Director of School Improvement and Administration serves as the Superintendent’s designee for the parent concern process. The Superintendent’s designee operates under the authority of the Superintendent. The final escalation after the Superintendent’s designee, within the HCPSS, is the Board of Education.
What process should I follow if my concern is with the school principal?
If the concern is regarding the school principal, the formal process should be followed and the Parent Concern Form should be directed to the Administrative Director. Visit the following site for contact details for Administrative Directors: http://www.hcpss.org/contact-us/administrative-directors/
What do I do if I need assistance with navigating the process for Resolving School Concerns and Disagreement or want to speak to someone confidentially about my concern?
In this situation, please contact the Ombudsman to get clarification. Visit the following site for information regarding the Ombudsman, including contact details: http://www.hcpss.org/board/ombudsman/
The Ombudsman serves as a neutral party to collaborate with Howard County Department of Education staff and the community. The Ombudsman may advocate for a fair process and fair administration only.
Services of the Ombudsman include:
- Confidential discussion of your concern to the extent possible.
- Review of applicable Board of Education policies and procedures.
- Referral to individuals who can help solve the problem.
- Referral to appropriate school system and community resources.
The Ombudsman is required to follow Board of Education policies and procedures, and treat all parties fairly (See Policy 2030: Ombudsman). The Ombudsman does not have the authority to change policy or force schools to take specific action.
- At the Department of Education, 10910 Clarksville Pike, Ellicott City.
- By telephone at 410-313-6850.
- By private fax at 410-740-1645.
If you do not speak English, an interpreter may be requested.