Howard redistricting: Board of Education members discuss potential high school plans

The Howard County Board of Education worked Wednesday night to explore potential redistricting measures for the county’s 12 high schools, though no concrete decisions were made.

Using maps of current boundary lines and looking at proposed plans by school board members Jen Mallo and Chao Wu, the board scrutinized over polygons — a term used to represent clusters of neighborhoods and areas of the county that attend certain elementary, middle and high schools — during the third redistricting work session.


The school board’s starting point in addressing redistricting for the high schools is Howard High.

“We have to address the elephant in the room and that’s Howard High School overcrowding,” Mallo said during the work session.


Howard’s capacity level is approximately 140%, while the target capacity utilization for the school system is to have schools between 90% and 110% capacity.

Howard schools Superintendent Michael Martirano presented a proposal in August to move nearly 7,400 students to combat school overcrowding, address inequities in the distribution of students affected by poverty and establish a road map for the county’s 13th high school, in Jessup.

Students would be moved ahead of the 2020-21 school year.

After presenting their formal plans for high school redistricting on Monday night, Mallo and Wu expanded upon their plans Wednesday. No other plans were presented.

Both plans look to move students from Howard High to Long Reach and Oakland Mills high schools.

In Mallo’s plan, a cascade effect would need to occur at the remaining high schools, meaning some students from almost every high school would have to move to another one.

Mallo also addressed the community as she was explaining her test plan.

“Many people [are] asking why River Hill, which does not have a utilization problem, should be taking students from Atholton, which does not have a utilization problem,” and why the plan calls for sending River Hill students to Glenelg, which also doesn’t have an overutilization problem, she said.

“My answer is this: You don’t have to be part of the problem to be part of the solution. We need every high school to be part of the solution.”

Wu compared his plan to both Mallo’s and Martiarano’s proposals.

At the high school level, factoring in the exemptions of not moving rising juniors or seniors, Wu’s plan looks to move 865 students, Mallo’s plan would move 1,617 students and Martirano’s proposes moving 1,489 students, according to Wu’s calculations.

In terms of polygon moves, Wu calculated his plan moves 67, Mallo’s moves 126 and Martirano’s moves 120 polygons.


Wu created his plan, for all grade levels, by looking at the numbers of students, polygons and walkers — students who currently walk to and from school — moved; school utilization; and the analyses of potential costs, Free and Reduced Meals rate, and the overall benefits and risks.

“As a board, we want to work together to find the best possible scenario and relieve overcrowding, achieve a socioeconomic balance and be cost sensitive,” Wu said. “We should put our children in the center of every decision we are making.”

School board member Christina Delmont-Small announced she is in the process of developing a feeder system for all schools. By taking both Mallo’s and Wu’s plans into account and looking at data, Delmont-Small is working toward creating a series of feeds that have certain elementary schools attending certain middle schools and then carrying over to high schools.

“What I am proposing is a plan to put students and families first before development [where new homes will be built],” she said. “I am not against development. I am for responsible development, and I think we probably can use a little more of that in this county.”

No motions were made at either work session this week regarding moving students from the current high schools.

In the Oct. 28 work session, a motion to request the Office of School Planning provide capacity and FARMs program data for the county’s 13th high school, for the potential boundary, passed unanimously.

While the current school board will not vote on the final boundary lines for the new high school, the potential lines were discussed to be from Route 175 to the county line and a portion of North Laurel where approximately 394 homes are set to be built on the Milk Producers Cooperative Association property. This county area, categorized as polygon 2010, is currently in the Hammond High School district in Columbia.

At the first work session Oct. 17, a motion passed unanimously to not move rising juniors from their current school; rising seniors were never considered to be moved per school board policy. An amendment was added that rising juniors’ parents would need to opt in for bus transportation.

During the first work session, a motion failed to keep students who currently walk to their respective schools. The motion can potentially be considered at a later date.

Howard residents, students and parents can submit written testimony until Nov. 19. The school board is scheduled to vote on a final plan Nov. 21.

During the third work session, the school board scheduled an additional session for 1 p.m. Nov. 7 to continue discussing high schools, ahead of their regular meeting at 4 p.m.

Remaining work sessions are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Nov. 5, 12, 14 and 18.

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