Beginning with 2002, however, projections have been made for individual schools, allowing officials to capture "unique characteristics" of individual neighborhoods, Gallihue said. School board Chairwoman Janet Siddiqui said the accuracy of the system's projections has greatly improved since the change was made.

But another policy that considers the system rather than the individual school, and has the potential to mismatch space with need, still exists.

That policy is the school board's use of educational specification standards in designing schools, which combine state school requirements with the board's own and save money by using a single, standardized building design regardless of location.

During the last decade, when the school system built a larger number of schools, the policy made sense, Siddiqui said.

Submit a Letter to the Editor for the Laurel Leader, Columbia Flier and Howard County Times

But that approach can also lead to problems.

When Veterans and Dayton Oaks were built, the board's standards called for elementary schools to have a capacity of 788 students, an increase from years past, Siddiqui said. But the schools' first-year capacities, of 94.2 and 69.4 percents, respectively, show the same school was built for different populations. That Veterans' population soared while Dayton Oaks' dropped made the disparity even more glaring.

"It might have been worth having some sort of design (at Dayton Oaks) where you could easily add on, … " Gallihue said. "But it's always more expensive to come back to a site and build an addition."

The elementary standard has since been trimmed to a 600-student capacity facility, which is more in line with the system's desire to build community-based schools, Siddiqui said.

"Once you get above a certain size, then you're pulling in kids from farther away, and you lose that sense of a community school," she said.

Community isn't the only factor considered when dealing with mismatched resources, though, and redistricting will remain an option, Siddiqui said.

"Nobody likes to go through it," she said. "But, certainly, it's inevitable."