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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 processes.


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 If the student does not currently qualify for enrollment under Policy 9000, the student will be withdrawn.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.


By state law, children must attend school from ages 5 to 18. 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 Howard County 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.

Parents are encouraged to provide supervision at the bus stop. 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 schools/transportation/.

School Meals

Lunch and breakfast are available daily to all students at all schools. All meals served are nutritionally balanced and adhere to the USDA regulations and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) standards. School lunch menus and nutrition information are available on

Parents may open a prepaid account for their child at Students each have a Personal Identification Number (PIN) and account that they will use throughout their school years. Please help your student learn his/her number. Please do not share your number with other students.

Meal charging is not encouraged. However, there may be times when a student’s meal account may not have available funds to cover the meal cost. New policy guidelines have been established regarding meal charges and outstanding balances. Please make every effort to maintain a positive balance in your account. 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. One application may be used for all children in a household.

Applications are distributed to students at the beginning of the school year. If you have not received an application, parents can obtain one from any school office or apply online at Parents may also complete the application sent home on the first day of school and return it to the school, or mail it to the Food and Nutrition Service Office (address on application). Applications for free or reduced-price meal benefits are accepted anytime during the school year. All information is strictly confidential.

For more information about the Food and Nutrition Service program, visit or call 410‑313‑6738.

Homework Guidelines

The Howard County Public School System supports students in maintaining and extending their learning. The appropriate design, use, and evaluation of homework assignments, used to inform progress and provide opportunities for independent practice, are part of achieving that goal. Homework will be purposeful, appropriate, informative, and flexible.

  • Purposeful: Students understand why they are completing homework. Homework is grounded in and expands upon skills and knowledge students have learned in the classroom.
  • Appropriate: Homework should be designed so that all students can experience success in independent completion of assignments. Accommodations will be provided as outlined in students’ IEPs and Section 504 Plans on homework.
  • Informative: Homework enables parents to be included in their child’s day-to-day school experiences.
  • Flexible: Assignments can be successfully completed within timeframes that have flexible deadlines when possible.

Homework amounts for each grade:

Grades PreK-2

No more than 20 minutes of homework per night will be assigned. In Pre-K and Kindergarten there will be no assignments that must be submitted to the teacher.

Grades 3-5

Approximately one to four hours of homework per week is suggested for each student in Grades 3–5, with no more than 30 minutes required per night in Grade 3, 40 minutes in Grade 4, and 50 minutes in Grade 5.

Grades 6-8

Approximately five to eight hours of homework a week are suggested for each middle school student across their class schedule. Each instructor assigns an average of, at most, one hour of homework per week. There may be weeks where less homework is assigned.

Grades 9-12

An upper limit of seven to 14 hours of homework a week is suggested for each high school student. Some classes might require students to spend more or less time on homework than is typical.

All Grades

Schools will provide information to parents on the school’s homework procedures, the purpose(s) of homework, and how parents can help monitor, assist, and discuss homework. Each school will communicate this information to parents at the beginning of every school year and make this information available throughout the school year.

  • Students, parents, and teachers should communicate about scheduled and actual homework completion times to ensure realistic expectations for the completion of assignments.
  • Homework will be planned so students see the relationship of their homework to intended learning targets, see meaning in their assignments, have a clear understanding of the procedures and due dates, understand how their homework is evaluated, and understand how they can use feedback on homework to improve learning.
  • Teachers are required to ensure that homework is accommodated as necessary in accordance with students’ IEPs and Section 504 Plans. Students should not be penalized for failure to complete classwork or homework when accommodations are not provided. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) best practices should be used when assigning homework.
  • All homework assignments that are graded will be returned no later than three weeks from due date with the understanding that feedback to students is more meaningful for learning the sooner it is provided. Each school’s administrators will support teachers in the development of clear guidelines for late or missing homework, as well as determine the percentage of students’ grades that can be derived from homework assignments. Homework may be reviewed or evaluated as part of class activities, briefly, but class time should not be used for the completion of homework.
  • Teams of teachers will discuss homework activities and projects in order to follow grade level homework duration guidelines. Canvas tools will be made available as one option to help teachers coordinate major projects and exams. Teachers will be understanding of student circumstances and should tailor homework assignments with flexible due dates when possible so that students can complete homework tasks throughout the week.
  • All students may not have access to electronic communications outside their school building. Therefore, no mandatory assignments are to be given to students electronically when schools are not in session and no assignments are to be submitted when school is not in session, including during emergency closings. All homework assignments are to be given during the class period and no assignments are to be due before the next time the class meets. Technology may be available to increase efficiency and flexibility in submitting assignments, but will not be required for successful completion. All efforts will be made to give students access to school computers for the completion of assignments.
  • County- and state-mandated testing is a legitimate reason for reducing homework assignments.
  • There will be no mandatory homework given over the summer nor religious holidays for all grade levels, nor winter or spring breaks for students in grades Pre-K–8. Any work assigned over breaks will be voluntary and nongraded enrichment activities.
  • Reading lists and additional resources will be available during breaks, as well as throughout the school year, as a service to students who want an opportunity to improve reading and mathematics skills. Families will be provided with access to resources to supplement reading and mathematics instruction for students.

For more information, visit

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 Religious Obligation: Request for Absence 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. Absences for religious holidays 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.

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 to seek review at a higher administrative level. In both processes, the intent is to protect the confidentiality and preserve the dignity of everyone involved.