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Handbook – 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 court-appointed legal guardians are bona fide residents of Howard County. A child must attend the school in the attendance area in which he/she lives. If a student does not currently qualify for enrollment under Policy 9000, the student will be withdrawn. 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. For more information, use the School Locator at or contact the Office of Pupil Personnel Services at 410–313–6747.

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 and on the HCPSS website. If a child does not have a pediatrician or primary care provider, the health services staff can assist with a referral. The school health assistant or nurse should be notified if a child has a temporary or chronic health problem.

School Procedures


The Maryland State Compulsory attendance law requires that children must attend school from ages 5 to 18. The Maryland State Department of Education 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 after the student’s return, indicating the date and reason for tardiness or absence from a regular school session. A doctor’s note is required in cases of long-term absence or excessive absenteeism 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 Program Innovation and Student Well-Being. See the Attendance Policy 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 (410–715–3164) 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 Program offerings may be modified due to pandemic-related school system status.

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 as determined by the IEP team.

Students are expected to be at their bus stop at least five minutes before the scheduled pickup 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.

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

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

During the 2021–2022 school year, Food and Nutrition Service will serve universal free breakfast and lunch to all students.

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 Eligibility Guidelines are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Participation in the Free and Reduced-Price Meal program qualifies students for many opportunities. One application may be used for all children in a household. Applications are available online at and are available in different languages. Non-English speaking families can also reach out to the International Student and Family Services Office for help filling out the application. Families are encouraged to use the online application for faster processing. A limited number of paper applications will be available at each school. 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.
  • 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 Pre-K–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 their 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. 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 non-graded 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

HCPSS discourages students from bringing personal property to school. Students are responsible for their personal property at all times. This includes items that are relevant to instructional programs or extracurricular activities, such as personal electronic devices, musical instruments, or expensive clothing items. If students bring such items to school, they are responsible for storing them in a secure location. The school system is not responsible for damaged, lost, or stolen items.

School staff have the right to confiscate any electronic device seen during the school day if used in unauthorized areas or at unauthorized times. Staff may also confiscate personal property if its possession or use on school grounds or at school events violates system policies or school rules. Staff take reasonable precautions to ensure property is secure until it is returned. Any confiscated property is returned to a student’s parent/guardian after a parent conference is conducted. Substances or items that are illegal to possess, will be given to law enforcement officials or retained for disciplinary proceedings. Parents/guardians who have questions or a claim regarding lost or damaged student property should contact the Risk Management Department of the Office of Safety and Security at 410‑313–6824.

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.

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 and guardians 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.

Level 1: Informal Process – School Level

  1. The first step is to address the concern or issue with the school staff member who is most directly involved to reach a mutually agreed-upon resolution. If the concern directly involves the principal, the parent may contact the Community Superintendent.
  2. If the initial attempt to resolve the issue is not satisfactory, the next step is to contact the principal or assistant principal.
    • The school administrator will confirm that the parent has attempted to resolve the issue with the teacher or other staff member, as appropriate, and will contact the parent within two school days with a decision or to identify additional time needed to investigate.
    • If the concern requires the involvement of Central Office departments, the administrator will assist the parent in accessing the appropriate office. Central Office personnel will respond to the parent within ten school days and inform the principal of the response.

Level 2: Formal Process – School Level Meeting and Documentation

  1. Parents who are not satisfied with a resolution proposed by an assistant principal during the Level 1 Informal Process may address the complaint through the Level 2 Formal Process:
    • Complete Part I of the Formal Concern Form, accessible at, outlining specific concerns, and submit it to the principal. The principal’s office will schedule a meeting with the parent within 3 days.
    • The principal will complete Part II of the Formal Concern Form to document areas of agreement and identify steps to address any unresolved issues, and will send the response to the parent within 10 school days.
    • If a concern cannot be resolved reasonably within 10 days, the principal may extend the time for up to 10 additional days, and will notify the parent in writing.
    • If the parent’s request from the formal concern form is denied, the principal must also forward a copy of the formal concern form to the Community Superintendent.
  2. If the parent already met with the principal during the Level 1 Informal Process, then Part 1 of the Formal Concern Form can be submitted to the Community Superintendent along with documentation of the principal’s decision or denial of the request.
    • The Community Superintendent/designee will contact the parent within 3 school days to schedule a meeting.
  3. If the parent chooses not to meet with the principal prior to completing the Level 2 Formal Process concern form, the parent should provide an explanation to the Community Superintendent.
    • The Community Superintendent/designee will gather information from the principal, which may delay a timely resolution.

Level 3: Formal Process – Central Office Review

  1. If the issue is not resolved to the parent’s satisfaction, or if it directly involves the principal, the parent may contact the appropriate area Community Superintendent to review the concern. Contact information for the Community Superintendents may be found at
    • The Community Superintendent/designee will obtain all applicable documentation from the principal. Parents may also submit applicable documentation.
    • After reviewing the documentation, the Community Superintendent/designee will confer with the parent, principal, and other appropriate individuals, and will document any decisions or agreements and respond in writing to the parent within 10 school days.
  2. If the parent is not satisfied with the decision of the Community Superintendent/designee, the parent may request in writing that the matter be reviewed by the Chief School Management and Instructional Leadership Officer. The Chief School Management and Instructional Leadership Officer will review the documentation and provide a written response within 15 school days.
    • The Chief School Management and Instructional Leadership Officer serves as the Superintendent’s designee for the formal concern process, and is the last step in the formal concern process. In some matters, Board policy may include a right of appeal to the Board.

*Note: Contact the Public Information Office for information regarding the 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.

For more information regarding the formal concern process, visit:


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.
  • 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.

The Ombudsman may be reached:

At the Department of Education, 10910 Clarksville Pike, Ellicott City.
By telephone at 410–313–6850.

If you do not speak English, an interpreter may be requested.