Howard school system seeks community feedback on redistricting proposals for 2023 school year

·4 min read

Jun. 15—As the Howard County Public School System works to change school boundaries for the 2023-2024 school year, in preparation for the opening of High School 13 in Jessup, community members are being asked to participate in the process.

High School 13 will be located near Mission Road and Washington Boulevard in Jessup, within the current Hammond High School attendance area. It will open in fall 2023 with ninth and 10th grade students only. According to the school system, communities near the eastern part of Howard County are most likely to be impacted by the redistricting process.

In November 2019, the Howard school board approved a redistricting plan that moved about 5,400 students to new schools for the 2020-21 academic year. The board's plan was to balance the level of poverty across the county's schools by moving 2,827 elementary, 568 middle and 2,007 high school students. In 2019, Superintendent Michael Martirano called it "the largest redistricting effort in Howard County's history." Martirano said it would undo a decade of overcrowding, advance socioeconomic equity across all Howard schools and establish a road map for the opening of High School 13.

Four scenarios for redistricting in the 2023-2024 school year were presented last week as part of a new feasibility study conducted by Cooperative Strategies on behalf of the school system. Scott Leopold of Cooperative Strategies presented the scenarios during a meeting with the school board on June 9.

Leopold said the scenarios were created with a goal of keeping school capacity ranges within 90-100% for "as long a period of time as possible," and to "promote a sense of community in...geographic place" by maintaining contiguous communities or neighborhoods. There was a focus on promoting the creation of "a diverse and inclusive student body" at each of the schools by examining socioeconomic compositions of school populations, he said.

A survey was posted online last week for community members to give feedback about the scenarios.

Scenario A creates a boundary for High School 13 that extends to the south and west, and reassigns about 2,800 high school students and about 100 middle school students. It is designed to relieve crowding at Hammond, Atholton and Reservoir high schools, Leopold said.

"The available capacity at Hammond High School is used to receive students from Oakland Mills High School, with Oakland Mills then receiving students from Long Reach High School," Leopold said. "This frees up capacity at Long Reach High School to receive students from Howard High School."

In Scenario B, the High School 13 boundary extends from Route 32 north to the county line. This scenario is designed to relieve crowding at Hammond, Oakland Mills, Long Reach and Howard high schools.

"There is not enough capacity at High School 13 for all students east of [Interstate] 95 and north of [Route] 32 to attend High School 13, so an area does remain at Oakland Mills," Leopold said.

This scenario would reassign about 3,100 high school students and about 100 middle school students.

For Scenario C, the boundary for High School 13 would align with the Thomas Viaduct Middle School boundary on the east side of Interstate 95, extending west to "capture the detached Atholton High School zone," according to Leopold. This scenario relieves Hammond, Atholton, Oakland Mills and Long Reach high schools.

This scenario would reassign 2,800 high school students and about 100 middle school students.

Leopold said Scenario D was designed with "a focus of minimal impact and avoids some of the areas reassigned in 2019."

Scenario D creates a boundary for High School 13 extending north to the county line in a "non-contiguous manner," he said, and directly relieves Hammond, Long Reach and Howard high schools.This scenario reassigns 2,500 high school students and about 100 middle school students.

Community members can participate in focus groups or community feedback sessions this month. The superintendent will make a recommendation to the school board in September, after which the school board will hold public hearings and work sessions. The school board anticipates making a final decision on redistricting in November.

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Community feedback sessions will be held June 23 from 7-8:30 p.m. at Long Reach High School; June 28 from 7-8:30 p.m. at Reservoir High School; and June 29 from 7-8:30 p.m. at Oakland Mills High School. Focus groups will be held the week of June 27.

More information about the process and links to the feasibility study, scenarios and maps can be found at https://www.hcpss.org/school-planning/redistricting-for-23-24/#feasibility-study.