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School Procedures

School Eligibility Requirements

Age of Entrance

Age for admission to public schools has been established by the state. A child must be:

  • Four years old by September 1 to attend prekindergarten.
  • Five years old by September 1 to attend kindergarten.
  • Six years old by September 1 to attend first grade.

Application for exception to the age requirement may be made through the waiver or early admission process. For more information, visit www.hcpss.org/schools/kindergarten/.

Residency

A child is eligible to attend a Howard County public school if his/her parents or guardians are residents of Howard County. A child must attend the school in the attendance area in which he/she lives. Tuition will be charged retroactively, if, upon investigation, it is determined that a student was enrolled as a resident student, but lacked bona fide residency. If the student does not currently qualify for enrollment under Policy 9000, the student will be withdrawn. For more information, please contact the Public Information Office at 410-313-6682 or use the School Locator

Physical Examination Requirement

Maryland law requires a physical examination for all students entering a public school for the first time. The required physical examination form is available at each school. If your child has a temporary or chronic health problem, please notify the school health assistant or nurse.

Attendance

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.

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 (410-715-3164) or the Department of Recreation and Parks (410‑313-7275). The Department of Recreation and Parks also offers Can-TEEN Club, an after-school enrichment program, at several middle schools. For more information, visit before and after school care page.

Bus Transportation

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:

  1. Follow directions from the driver the first time they are given.
  2. Stay seated in your seat at all times while the bus is in motion.
  3. Keep all parts of your body inside the bus.
  4. Keep hands, feet, legs, arms, personal property and your voice to yourself.
  5. 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/.

Meals

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 myschoolbucks. 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.

Meal charging is not encouraged; however, there may be times when a student’s meal account does not have available funds to cover the meal cost. New policy guidelines have been established regarding meal charges. Please refer to Policy 4200 for further meal charging information.

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.

Homework Guidelines

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.

All Grades

  • 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.

Grades K-5

  • 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.

Grades 6-8

  • 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.

Grades 9-12

  • 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 and Risk Management at 410-313-6739.

Photographing, Videotaping or Audiotaping in Schools

As part of school-related activities and assignments, HCPSS students may be videotaped, audiotaped, photographed, or asked to submit videos, recordings, or photographs of themselves. In order to safeguard children’s privacy and ensure parents’ rights, HCPSS takes the following proactive measures regarding students’ images and recordings:

  • Teachers will notify parents/guardians of their intended use of videotaping, audiotaping, or photographing for school-related activities and assignments through their course homepage on Canvas. Parents/guardians should contact their child’s teacher with questions about specific uses of videotaping, audiotaping, or photographing.
  • Parents/guardians may request that their child not be included in media intended for public audiences by filling out the Media Release section on the Family File.
    • Please note: this request does not include yearbooks or memory books. Parents may request their child not be included in the memory book or yearbook by contacting their child’s school administrator.
  • All parents and visitors must have the building administrator’s expressed approval in order to photograph, videotape or audiotape students in school or on school grounds during the regular instructional day. This statement does not apply to photographing, videotaping or audiotaping during extracurricular activities, such as public concerts and athletic events.

This statement does not apply to photographing, videotaping or audiotaping during extracurricular activities, such as public concerts and athletic events.

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.

If a religious observance requires a student to miss all or part of a school day, 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.

School Holidays

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

For more information, see Policies 9010 Attendance, and 3000 Religious Observances.

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.