Howard superintendent's plan aims to relieve crowding at Hammond, Long Reach and Howard high schools next fall

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Aug. 31—Howard County's superintendent will present a plan Thursday to relieve crowding at several Howard County high schools next school year. The proposal would reassign 46 middle school students and 2,555 high school students next fall, in anticipation of the opening of high school 13 near Jessup.

Superintendent Michael Martirano will present his Proposed Attendance Area Adjustment Plan for redistricting to the Board of Education at 4 p.m., Thursday, during a public hearing, which can be viewed online at https://www.hcpss.org/board/meetings/.

Martirano's plan is based on Scenario D, one of the four redistricting scenarios presented June 9 by Cooperative Strategies as part of a feasibility study requested by HCPSS. The new high school is near Mission Road and Washington Boulevard in Jessup, within the Hammond High School attendance area. It will open with 1,658 seats in grades nine and 10.

In his report Martirano states that in fall 2023, four high schools are projected to be above 110% of capacity for students. Under his proposal, no high schools would be projected above 110% capacity in 2023 and would remain under 110% through fall 2030, he says.

Under Martirano's plan, the new high school would directly relieve crowding at Hammond, Long Reach and Howard high schools, with the largest portion of students being moved from Hammond.

Available capacity at Hammond would be used for students relocated from Reservoir High School. Some Howard High students would be moved to Long Reach High, and with the additional capacity available at Howard High, students from Mount Hebron High would be moved to Howard.

The 46 middle schoolers affected by the plan would be reassigned from Oakland Mills to Ellicott Mills Middle School.

The scenarios developed by Cooperative Strategies and the HCPSS Office of School Planning were informed by a series of community input workshops in spring 2022. Following the presentation of the scenarios on June 9, Cooperative Strategies and the school system solicited community feedback through a variety of virtual and in-person forums to assist with the development of the superintendent's recommendation.

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"Community members expressed a desire to attend [or] remain at their geographically closest school, and to keep their neighborhoods and school communities together as much as possible," the superintendent's plan states. All 2,106 responses to the feasibility study's online survey can be found in the appendix of the report, which includes more than 100 pages of general feedback comments.

Responses to the feasibility survey were largely supportive of Scenario D in comparison to the other three options.

"While Scenario D has some inconsistent boundaries, it is the least disruptive option by reassigning the least number of kids," wrote one respondent. "It also is the only option that keeps all the high schools at the lowest capacity—the whole point of building a new high school."

Other comments and social media posts have criticized the incongruous nature of the new high school′s boundary, which would be completely bisected by Oakland Mills High School's zone.

"Scenario D has the least contiguous district for [high school] 13 but there will be redistricting in the future that can eventually correct that," wrote another survey respondent. "I empathize [with] families who were redistricted in 2019 and do not want to change schools again and also support minimizing the number of students impacted."

The Board of Education has scheduled public hearings on attendance area adjustments on Sept. 7 and Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. County residents can register online to testify at either of these hearings. Adoption of new boundaries for the 2023-2024 school year must occur by Nov. 17.

More information about the redistricting process and links to the feasibility study, scenarios and maps can be found on the HCPSS website.