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Alternative Education Programs

Alternative education programs are designed to meet the needs of students with significant behavioral and academic challenges. In the HCPSS, alternative programs can be found in neighborhood schools, at the countywide alternative learning center, and through our evening school offerings.

Services Offered

All alternative education programs provide academic and behavioral supports and interventions, intensive case management services, enhanced parent outreach, skill development in conflict resolution and anger management, and frequent progress monitoring.

Other common features include small class sizes, close adult supervision, frequent contact between school and home, and learning strategies and approaches individually designed to meet the needs of students.

Three Program Tiers to Alternative Education

The Howard County Public School System provides two tiers or levels of alternative education programming. Tier one is offered in the student’s home school and Tier two provides a greater level of services and supports than tier one.

Tier One — In-School Programs

Tier one programs are located in the local schools. The purpose of these programs is to provide students and staff with additional resources and supports that enable children displaying challenging behaviors to achieve success in their neighborhood schools. There are 32 schools with these programs:

Elementary Schools

  • Bryant Woods
  • Cradlerock
  • Deep Run
  • Ducketts Lane
  • Elkridge
  • Guilford
  • Laurel Woods
  • Longfellow
  • Phelps Luck
  • Running Brook
  • Swansfield
  • Stevens Forest
  • Talbott Springs
  • Waterloo

Middle Schools

  • Bonnie Branch
  • Cradlerock
  • Dunloggin
  • Elkridge Landing
  • Harper’s Choice
  • Mayfield Woods
  • Murray Hill
  • Oakland Mills
  • Thomas Viaduct
  • Wilde Lake

High Schools

  • Atholton
  • Hammond
  • Howard
  • Long Reach
  • Mt. Hebron
  • Oakland Mills
  • Reservoir
  • Wilde Lake

Tier Two — Gateway Programs

Gateway Middle and Gateway High School are located at the Homewood Center, Howard County’s centrally located alternative learning center. The Gateway programs serve students needing greater levels of support than can be provided in the neighborhood school. Students are referred to these programs by staff in the neighborhood schools or by Central Office Administration. Students appropriate for the Gateway programs need a very high level of support and structure in order to meet with academic and behavioral success. They benefit from small class sizes, a more personal approach to teaching and learning, and access to individual and group counseling.

Additional Programs for Students

Saturday School Program

Saturday School is an alternative to out-of-school suspension. School administrators use this program as part of the hierarchy of consequences available when students violate the Code of Conduct.

Rather than suspend students out of school, administrators may assign a student to Saturday School so that they can use their “own” time to complete academic assignments missed as a result of their involvement in disciplinary infractions.

All middle and high schools offer Saturday School as an alternative to suspension.

Evening School Program

The Howard County Evening School Program offers alternative education programming to students from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. There are two components to the program: Original Credit/Credit Recovery classes, and classes for students serving extended suspensions.

Original Credit and Credit Recovery Classes

A limited number of original credit and credit recovery classes are available to junior or senior students who are trying to graduate from high school in a timely manner. This includes students who have dropped out and then returned to school, those with a history of academic difficulties who have fallen behind their same-age peers, and those who are having difficulty adapting to a comprehensive school environment.

Additionally, Evening School is a place where students who want to graduate early can get ahead in their credit counts. Students who want to take more advanced coursework during the school day can also create space in their schedule by taking up to two courses in the evening.

Original credit classes meet for the whole school year. Credit Recovery classes meet for a semester and are available to students who have already taken, but failed a course.

Contact your school counselor or Judy Young, the teacher-in-charge for this program to find out the schedule and what courses are currently being offered.

Classes for Students Serving Extended Suspensions

Some students serving extended suspensions may be assigned to the Evening School program to receive academic and behavioral support services while they are suspended or removed from school for disciplinary reasons. These students take four core academic classes with work provided by the teachers from their assigned school, so that at the end of the suspension period, students may return to school without having fallen behind their classmates. All students under 16 years of age are assigned to this program during an extended suspension. Older students may be assigned based on individual circumstances.

Referral Process

School Problem Solving Teams

School problem solving teams including elementary and middle school Instructional Intervention Teams (IITs) and high school Student Support Teams (SSTs) are responsible for referring students for alternative education services. These teams initiate academic and behavioral interventions prior to referring a student for alternative education services and support. If these initial intervention attempts, designed for implementation within the student’s assigned classroom, are not successful, the problem solving team may decide to request intervention from the school-based alternative education program (AEP).

Central Admissions Committee (CAC)

The CAC reviews referrals for students to move into and out of the Gateway programs (Tier Two) and the Passages program (Tier Three). Staff members from the student’s home school complete referral documents, and a meeting is scheduled to review a request for initiation or termination of services at the Homewood Center.

The CAC reviews referrals from middle and high schools within the HCPSS, and also reviews the needs of students returning from court-ordered placements and other placements that have removed the student from the public school system for an extended period of time.

The Reinstatement and Enrollment Committee (REC)

The REC reviews and makes placement decisions regarding students 18 years of age and older who have dropped out of school and subsequently request re-enrollment. The REC also reviews the needs of older students who have had an extended break in their education for reasons beyond their control. This includes foreign-born students who have recently arrived in the United States and are residing in Howard County.


For more information contact the Office of Alternative Education Programs at 410-313-7178.

  • Kami Wagner, Coordinator, Student Support Programs – 410-313-7178
  • Consuela Robinson, Instructional Facilitator, Social Work – 410-313-7030
  • Susan Mohr, Administrative Assistant – 410-313-6747