School Boundary Review –
Frequently Asked Questions
Boundary Review Process
How long is the boundary review process?
The Feasibility Study will be presented on June 13, 2019, kicking off the public process, and concludes when the Board presents a decision on any boundary line adjustments on Nov. 21, 2019.
When will the final decision be made?
The Board decision on any boundary line adjustments will be made on Nov. 21, 2019.
Why must a Board decision occur on November 21 when changes won’t be implemented until the following school year?
Once a decision is made, there are many things that must occur in preparation for the following school year – some of which need to happen before the end of school in June.
Any time a redistricting process occurs, school enrollments are altered and staffing must be adjusted. Should the Board decide to implement a comprehensive solution that could impact all 74 school attendance areas, the staffing adjustment process could be significant. There are other educational considerations such as supporting students with IEPs and those attending regional programs, considering program implications in schools, and initiating a transition process for all students and families who may be moving schools. All of this must be completed by June.
At the same time, other processes must take place such as designing new bus routes, ensuring that transportation contractors have enough drivers to fulfill our requirements, adjusting the locations of portable classrooms to meet new requirements.
While the plan itself can be completed on paper, the implementation of the decision is a very heavy lift and one that is already compressed with the November 21 decision.
When will any changes go into effect?
Any decisions made by the Board in Nov. 2019 will go into effect in the 2020-2021 school year. Transition planning will begin in Dec. 2019, to implement the Board decision made in November.
It seems that the Board of Education adjusts school attendance areas almost every year. Why is that?
HCPSS reviews school attendance areas each year to balance school capacities with enrollments but actual attendance area adjustments are less frequent. Rapid growth in Howard County requires the school system to consider adjustment of school attendance areas to balance capacity utilization across regions. Additionally, boundaries are reviewed when new capacity is added through building additions and when a new school is opening. The county has opened 37 new schools in the last 30 years.
Didn’t we just go through a redistricting process two years ago?
Two years ago, we began a boundary review process with what the Superintendent called the “scorched-earth” approach. This approach basically would have put every school within target utilization, redrawing all of the attendance areas, and resulting in approximately 8,800 students being moved. Ultimately, the Board moved 2,200 students in order to open Hanover Hills Elementary School and fix multiple middle school feeds. Additionally, JumpStart was implemented to expand dual enrollment opportunities and allow students from Centennial, Howard and Long Reach high schools to attend Oakland Mills and River Hill in order to relieve crowding in those three schools. That approach did make a small impact but we must still act and implement a comprehensive plan.
You will see some similarities to the 2017 options as you review the options outlined in this year’s Feasibility Study. Next year, 37 schools are projected to be outside the 90-110 percent utilization target defined by HCPSS Board policy, and according to this year’s study, continued growth is expected. With those options, the maximum number of students that could be moved would be 4,600. Understand that in 2017, it was initially proposed that 8,800 students be moved. We eventually moved 2,200 but we also filled much of the capacity at River Hill High School and Oakland Mills High School so there is limited capacity in those schools to accept new students.
How do I find my school assignment?
Use this map application to find your school assignment: HCPSS Attendance Areas and School Assignments Map.
What is a polygon?
Polygons are geographic areas that can follow physical features, such as streets and water features, or subdivision or property boundaries. A polygon is a planning unit used to assign housing and student population projections for purposes of boundary reviews. These units can be assembled into attendance areas to model boundary scenarios. Throughout this process, “polygon”, “planning area” and “planning unit” may be used interchangeably.
What factors are considered when determining school attendance areas?
There are fourteen (14) factors listed in Policy 6010 that are considered when attendance area adjustments are proposed. These factors are categorized in the following groupings: Facility Utilization, Community Stability and Demographic Characteristics of Student Population. Each category is listed in detail in Policy 6010. This policy does not require compliance with all fourteen factors, nor does it provide a rank or weight for the factors. It is a list of the items to be considered in any boundary review.
While each of these factors is considered, it may be impractical to reconcile each and every school attendance area adjustment with each and every factor.
How much consideration will be given to transportation costs?
Transportation costs are one of the many factors considered when evaluating boundary adjustment scenarios. Policy does not prescribe a priority for these factors. Due to the current arrangement and location of existing schools, not every student can attend the closest school. Effort is made to avoid reassigning students who can walk to their current school to a school where they would become bus riders.
Why not wait until the opening of the 13th high school to adjust the boundary areas?
Earlier this year the Board of Education directed the Superintendent to undertake a comprehensive boundary review. The intent of the boundary review is to balance capacity utilization in the county. Policy 6010 identifies school capacity utilization above 110% as a trigger to evaluate boundary adjustments. The projections show there will be schools in this situation before the planned opening of high school #13 in 2023. The decision to adjust boundaries for SY 2020-21 or to wait until 2023 lies with the Board.
What role does the opening of the new high school (HS #13) play in this process?
There is no role of the HS #13 opening in this process as it will not open until 2023. HS #13 is planned to be constructed on property near the intersection of Route 1, I-95, and Route 32 in Jessup. There will not be an approved boundary for this school until fall of 2022, following a boundary review in the spring and summer of that year. There is a possibility that neighborhoods reassigned in the 2019 process (for SY 2020-2021) may be impacted again in 2022.
Why build a new school when you could simply increase the capacity of existing structures?
There are limits to the amount of capacity that can be added to our buildings. Some have structural limits, others would require core improvements that may end up approaching the cost of a new school. In many cases, there is enough enrollment growth in an area, causing excessive crowding in existing schools, to justify a new school. When appropriate and possible, additions and renovations are planned, such as the one currently in the design phase for Hammond HS to add 200 seats.
What is the cost for an external consultant and why use one when HCPSS has a school planning office?
The HCPSS Office of School Planning is comprised of a staff of three, and has other responsibilities beyond reviewing school boundaries. In order to provide the Howard County community and the Superintendent with the support required, the services of a consultant were pursued. The Board accepted a bid not to exceed $400,000 on May 9, 2019, from Cooperative Strategies, Inc. to support the boundary review process. View information regarding the bid process.
Will cost considerations for options being considered be available publicly?
Policy 6010 lists criteria that are to be considered when evaluating boundary adjustment options. Costs associated with any of those criteria may be presented, where applicable, upon request of the Superintendent or Board.
How will the factors and considerations found in Policy 6010 be weighted as plans are being considered?
Policy does not prescribe a priority for these factors. Data is re-aggregated for boundary options, and reports are generated that allow evaluation against the policy considerations.
Attendance Area Committee (AAC)
How is the AAC selected?
The AAC will be comprised of up to 15 members representing the diversity of Howard County. The members represent every planning region in the County, and each has previously served HCPSS in advisory roles, as a member of an advisory committee, organized community organization or school system partner. Two individuals were tapped from one of the last three AACs to provide historical perspective.
Who are the 2019 AAC members?
The AAC was selected by the Superintendent with each member having previously served HCPSS in advisory roles, as a member of an advisory committee, organized community organization or school system partner.
- Heidi Abdelhady
- Bessie Bordenave
- Justin Carguilo (student)
- Frank Eastham
- Willie Flowers
- Hector Garcia
- Paige Getty
- Quiana Holmes
- Steven Hunt
- Suleman Malik
- Leonardo McClarty
- Lisa Schlossnagle
- Larry Walker
- Lanlan Xu
Can I participate in AAC meetings?
In response to feedback from the 2017 boundary adjustment process, several changes were implemented. In an effort to streamline the process and allow more time for Board discussion and deliberation, the scope of the AAC has changed.
AAC meetings will not be streamed online but are open to any member of the public who wishes to attend. Members of the public may not participate in the meetings. Meeting agendas and summary notes will be posted prior to and after each meeting, respectively. Entry into the meeting room will begin approximately five minutes prior to the start of the meeting. there will be no early entry.
Stakeholders may participate in a variety of methods. Please reference the Community Feedback/Engagement section for more information.
Will the AAC develop new plans?
The AAC will not be developing their own plans or reviewing plans submitted by community members. This group will review the feasibility study and provide feedback directly to the superintendent.
How can I contact the AAC?
Community members may not contact the AAC because they do not take public input. The role of the AAC is to provide feedback to the Superintendent regarding the attendance area considerations described in the Feasibility Study. We do encourage community members to submit feedback to the Superintendent using the online input form which is open June 14 through the beginning of August 2019.
Can I attend AAC meetings?
AAC meetings will be open to the public to attend but will not be broadcasted live or recorded. Public input is not accepted at AAC meetings. Meeting agendas and minutes will be made publicly available.
My child is happy at their current school. Why are we being reassigned to another school?
HCPSS is responsible for ensuring that all school buildings in the county are run efficiently and effectively. This means keeping all schools at or near capacity. Ensuring that all available seats in all schools are used before new schools are built saves tax dollars in the school system’s operating and capital budgets. When a school’s enrollment exceeds its capacity, relocatable classrooms may be used as a temporary solution. If enrollment growth is expected to continue, a permanent addition or a new school may be considered. If space is available in other schools in the county then students may be reassigned through the attendance area adjustment process to a school with available space. When the county opens a new school, the adjustment of attendance areas is inevitable.
My child is thriving at their current school. I’m worried they will not get the same support or curriculum at their new school. What should I do?
We respect and sympathize with the anxiety and uncertainty experienced during this time. We ensure your child will receive transition supports if they do get reassigned to another school. We can also ensure your child will continue to have access to excellent educators and supports so they continue thriving at a new school. As the Superintendent stated “HCPSS is not a system of individual schools, but a cohesive school system with consistent curriculum, excellent teachers, and comparable opportunities at every school.”
We live closer to a particular school. Why doesn’t my child attend that school?
Every effort is made to create “neighborhood” school attendance areas by assigning students to the school that is closest to their home. However, that is not always possible as the school system attempts to make the most effective and efficient use of all school buildings.
Due to the limited availability of suitable sites, schools can’t always be located where they are most needed. Sometimes a new school must be built close to an existing school. Sometimes attendance areas have to extend far from the school to serve areas without a “neighborhood” school. This can result in the assignment of students to a school that is not necessarily the closest to their home.
Our school is not crowded. Why is my child being reassigned to another school while other children are being moved into our school?
Rapid growth in an area, available seats in nearby schools, and the proximity of one school to another can make adjustment of multiple attendance areas the most feasible option for ensuring enrollment balance among all schools. This may result in students being reassigned from a school that is not crowded to a nearby school with available space in order to accommodate students from a school that is crowded. This can happen to schools between the crowded schools and those with available capacity. The schools with capacity aren’t always next to the crowded ones.
We were reassigned to a different school a few years ago, and now you are moving us again. Why can’t our neighborhood have stability?
Every attempt is made to avoid reassigning students more than once at any level. However, the growth in an area might necessitate more frequent moves. Whenever possible, changes are phased-in at the high school level so as not to disrupt the continuity of a student’s school experience any more than absolutely necessary.
In the event that your child is reassigned, all those involved in implementing the changes are sensitive to the impact on families and children. Transition teams are established to ensure that students move smoothly between sending and receiving schools.
You are trying to break up our neighborhood. We are a community and we don’t want to be split.
There is no definition of neighborhood that works for everyone. When attendance area adjustments are necessary, attempts are made to keep communities intact. We have heard from residents during prior boundary reviews that this is a priority, and this idea is reflected as a consideration in our policy. However it is not always possible to do so. As a result, villages and neighborhoods may be divided among schools.
We are a small neighborhood of only a few students. Can’t you just leave us at the school we currently attend?
Although a small group of students may seem insignificant, even 20-25 students can have an impact on an individual school, requiring an additional teacher and/or a relocatable classroom. Often it is many small adjustments, such as moving a small group of students to better align neighborhoods and feeds with school attendance areas, that when combined result in significant improvements to overall school enrollment capacities.
How can I get involved?
Your feedback is imperative to the success of this process. You can also help to inform your community by visiting the website to share the process overview video and one-pager so that all understand why this process is necessary.
Once the Feasibility Study is released and prior to the Superintendent’s recommendation, you are invited to offer feedback in these ways:
- Receive updates by following the HCPSS website, HCPSS News and HCPSS social media (Facebook, Twitter)
- Submit your feedback to the Superintendent using the online input form which is open June 14 through the beginning of August 2019.
- Attend a community input session. Families are encouraged to attend the session associated with the region in which they live based on School Locator. Those who cannot attend their region’s session should attend the county-wide session at Long Reach HS on Saturday, July 13 or may attend one of the other regional sessions. While RSVP is not required, it is highly encouraged. Information on RSVPs for the community sessions will be sent soon.
- Wednesday, July 10, 7–9 p.m. at Oakland Mills High School: Families currently zoned for Centennial HS, Howard HS, Mt. Hebron HS, Oakland Mills HS
- Saturday, July 13, 9–11 a.m. at Long Reach High School: Available to any family that is unable to attend their regional meeting.
- Tuesday, July 16, 7–9 p.m. at Atholton High School: Families currently zoned for Atholton HS, Hammond HS, Long Reach HS, Wilde Lake HS
- Thursday, July 18, 7–9 p.m. at River Hill High School: Families currently zoned for Glenelg HS, Marriotts Ridge HS, Reservoir HS, River Hill HS
- Stakeholders who lack access to technology and are unable attend an input session may mail feedback to the School Planning Office, 9020 Mendenhall Ct. Suite C, Columbia MD 21045. Print copies of the online feedback form will be provided in limited quantities to school offices.
Once the Superintendent presents his recommendation to the Board on August 20 , you are invited to offer feedback in these ways:
- A dedicated email will be made available on August 20 so you can submit your written testimony to the Board per Policy 2040. Written testimony, including identifying information, is considered public information and, as such, is subject to the Maryland Public Information Act. Learn more about public participation at BOE meetings.
- Attend Board Public Hearing at the Banneker Room, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, MD 21043
- Tuesday, September 17, 7 p.m. – Attendance Area Adjustment Public Hearing I Region I (Centennial HS, Howard HS, Mt. Hebron HS, Oakland Mills HS and feeders)
- Tuesday, September 24, 7 p.m. – Attendance Area Adjustment Public Hearing II Region II (Atholton HS, Hammond HS, Long Reach HS, Wilde Lake HS and feeders)
- Thursday, September 26, 7 p.m. – Attendance Area Adjustment Public Hearing III Region III (Glenelg HS, Marriotts Ridge HS, Reservoir HS, River Hill HS and feeders)
Some communities seem better organized than others. Will they be able to influence the boundary review process in a manner that isn’t equitable?
The Superintendent clearly stated that “No extra or special consideration will be given to the priorities of any individual or group representing specific neighborhoods or planning areas, no matter how vocal or well-organized. In order to ensure an equitable process, every stakeholder will have multiple opportunities to receive accurate information and provide input and feedback, and all voices will be heard and respected.”
Why are community sessions being held at four locations rather than all 12 high schools?
While the more opportunities for public engagement the better, there must be a balance that considers staff availability, school construction projects during the summer, and other considerations. While the four locations were selected to provide regional conversations, community members should feel free to attend any one of the four that fits your busy summer schedule as the same content will be covered at each session. One the Superintendent’s recommendations are presented on August 20, the Board will have several public hearings in the fall to receive community input and an option to submit testimony via email and US mail.
Will individuals or communities be able to propose boundary adjustment plans to be considered by the consultant, Superintendent or Board of Education?
Yes. Following the presentation of the Feasibility Study to the Board on June 13, the Superintendent will receive input through a dedicated online form. Boundary adjustment suggestions may be submitted through this form, or mail. The Board will have a separate process to accept feedback following the Superintendent’s recommendation on August 20.
Will testimony be taken during the community meetings?
Formal testimony (written or oral) will not be collected at the scheduled Community Input Sessions. Formal testimony is a process through which the Board of Education will collect input on the Superintendent’s plan. To help inform the Superintendent prior to his recommendation to the Board, input offered at community input sessions will be taken in the form of small group dialog, consensus building activities, preference surveys, and other interactive measures. This input will be gathered and shared with the Superintendent. To provide more formal input to the Superintendent, please use one of the online or paper input opportunities. The Board of Education will be offering three public hearings in September where formal testimony may be provided.
Transitioning to a New School
What is the process for transitioning students to a new school?
School staff are prepared to assist as students transition from one school to another, usually during the transition from elementary to middle and middle to high, and also when transitioning occurs between schools at the same level. In these cases, the receiving schools send teams of staff members and students to the sending schools to hold orientations for students. Orientations for parents are also held as well as student visits to the receiving schools. In addition, the teachers at the sending and receiving schools hold articulation meetings to discuss instruction, goals, and individualized student needs.
What if the new school my child will be attending does not offer the same programmatic options (certain AP courses, JROTC, etc)?
Other than JROTC which is offered in three (3) high schools, our elementary, middle, and high schools offer the same coursework to all students. While all courses in the county catalog are offered at the high school level, some courses are not run if only a very small number of students register for these courses. However, with the advent of digital learning, the school system is able to provide several courses for students at schools where previously these courses might not run due to enrollment. Regarding the JROTC program, all Howard County high school students may apply even though it is only offered at three schools. Space is limited.
In the past, 8th grade students were permitted to stay at their current school. Will that occur again this time if the parent provides transportation?
Exemptions of this nature are at the discretion of the Board, and are normally discussed during the fall work sessions.
My child will be a junior in the 2020-2021 school year. Will they be able to stay at their current school?
HCPSS Policy 6010 provides an exception from boundary changes for rising seniors only (students who complete their junior year in SY 2019-2020). Additional exemptions are at the discretion of the Board, and are normally discussed during the fall work sessions.
Will a phased-in approach for current high school students and trailing siblings be considered?
Policy 6010 exempts rising seniors from reassignment due to boundary adjustments. The Board can consider exempting rising fifth, eighth , and eleventh grade students. The Board can also consider exempting trailing siblings from boundary adjustments. These considerations are normally discussed during the fall work sessions.
Why wasn’t High School #14 included in the 2019 Feasibility Study?
The primary functions of the Feasibility Study is to provide an annual enrollment projection across the county and review the capacity needs of our schools across a 10-year timeframe. Though High School #14 was included in the FY 2020 Long Range Master Plan, with the additional capacity planned for High School #13 and the Hammond and Centennial High School additions, the projected need for additional seats across the county is alleviated over the next 10 years.
Of course, this could change based on greater than anticipated growth which is why the study is conducted annually. Staff will continue to monitor the projection trends in future years and identify school site locations and school additions that address the need for additional seats in anticipated areas of growth.
Why are FARM percentages different in attendance area adjustment reports than those in the school profiles?
In some cases, there are students who attend a Howard County school other than the school they are geographically assigned to for reasons like participation in JumpStart, special education, or JROTC. These students are counted in the attendance area of the school assignment based on their home address.
The percentages reported in the boundary review process are calculated using official SY 2018-19 (Sept. 30) enrollment data and official Oct. 2018 Free and Reduced Meals (FARM) participation reporting data. Geographic assignment is used, and records are aggregated by current and proposed attendance areas. This is the data used even though boundary adjustment options are evaluated using enrollment projections for school year 2020-21 and beyond. Projected FARM participation data does not exist. These numbers are for planning purposes, and may not exactly match other reported numbers due to differences in timing and methodology.
What data and other information has been redacted from the Feasibility Study published on June 13?
HCPSS follows the Maryland State Department of Education and the National Center for Education Statistics’ guidelines for protecting student privacy in public reporting.
Free and Reduced-Priced Meals (FARMs) Program:
The data shows the percentage of population participating in the Free and Reduced-Priced Meals (FARMs) Program living in each schools’ attendance area before and after the proposed boundary adjustment plan. These percentages are calculated using official SY 2018–19 enrollment data and Official October 2018 FARMs participation reporting data. Geographic assignment is used, and records are aggregated by current and proposed attendance areas. These numbers are for planning purposes, and may not exactly match other reported numbers due to differences in timing and methodology. In adherence with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), which restricts access to student records, values <=5% have been replaced with “<=5%” and values >=95% have been replaced with “>=95%”.
Testing data for Elementary and Middle Schools is comprised of spring 2018 test takers in grades 3–8 with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Assessments English or PARCC Math score. Students were marked proficient based on the criteria below. Testing data for high schools is comprised of Fall 2018 test takers in grades 9–11 with a PSAT score. Students were marked proficient based on the criteria below. The data shown here may not match other reported data due to differences in timing and calculation methodology. In adherence with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), which restricts access to student records, values <=5% have been replaced with “<=5%” and values >=95% have been replaced with “>=95”.
|Grade||English Assessment||English Prof Level||Math Assessment||Math Prof Level|
|3-8||PARCC ELA||750||PARCC Math||750|
|10||PSAT 8/9||410||PSAT 8/9||450|
|11||PSAT NMSQT||430||PSAT NMSQT||480|
|12||PSAT NMSQT||460||PSAT NMSQT||510|
English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL):
The data shows the percentage of students receiving English Second Language support living in each schools’ attendance area before and after the proposed boundary plan. These percentages are calculated from fall 2018 student data using geographic assignment, aggregated by current and proposed attendance areas. These numbers may not exactly match other reported numbers due to differences in timing and methodology. In adherence with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), which restricts access to student records, values <=5% have been replaced with “<=5%” and values >=95% have been replaced with “>=95%”.
The data shows the % of students by race/ethnicity living in each schools’ attendance area before and after the proposed boundary plan. These percentages are calculated from fall 2018 student data using geographic assignment, aggregated by current and proposed attendance areas. These numbers may not exactly match other reported numbers due to differences in timing and methodology. In adherence with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), which restricts access to student records, values <=5% have been replaced with “<=5%” and values >=95% have been replaced with “>=95%”.
Following a Boundary Line Decision
Can I appeal the Board of Education’s Attendance Area Adjustment Plan decision?
Yes. In accordance with the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 13A.01.05.02, please be advised that an appeal of the Board’s decision may be filed with the Maryland State Board of Education within thirty (30) calendar days of the Board of Education meeting at which action was taken on the Attendance Area Adjustment Plan at the Nov. 21, 2019 meeting.
The appeal is to be mailed to the Maryland State Board of Education, 200 West Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201 in one of the following ways:
- In writing and received by the State Board within thirty (30) calendar days of the Board’s meeting
- Deposited in the United States mail as registered or certified mail or Express Mail within thirty (30) calendar days of the Board’s meeting.
- Deposited with a delivery service, such as FedEx, UPS, or DHL, that provides verifiable tracking of the item from the point of origin within thirty (30) calendar days of the Board’s meeting.