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On cusp of redistricting, Howard schools expect 1.4% growth in enrollment

Jess Nocera
Contact ReporterHoward County Times

Howard County schools expect a 1.4% increase in enrollment for the 2019-20 academic year, according to the school system’s feasibility study. The projection was announced as the system started the process of redistricting.

Adding an estimated 776 students would put Howard County schools’ enrollment at 57,346 students. Enrollment projections are produced each winter, predicting the student population for Sept. 30 of each year.

The feasibility study provides a 10-year student enrollment projection for Howard schools. The projection shows an increase of enrollment of 6,700 students over the next decade.

The study was presented at the county school board’s general meeting Thursday night. The board also approved 60 employee transfers and promotions.

Data evaluated as part of the survey includes Free and Reduced-price Meals program participation, sales of existing housing units and projected new housing units. The data is being verified by Cooperative Strategies LLC, an independent consultant.

Student enrollment projections also inform long-range facilities planning decisions. Those include whether to implement school attendance area adjustments, relocate regional programs, replace or build new schools and construct permanent classroom additions to existing schools, according to the study.

Sept. 30, 2019, student enrollment projections by grade level are:

  • Kindergarten: 3,967
  • First grade: 4,138
  • Second grade: 4,196
  • Third grade: 4,329
  • Fourth grade: 4,339
  • Fifth grade: 4,478
  • Sixth grade: 4,668
  • Seventh grade: 4,615
  • Eighth grade: 4,538
  • Ninth grade: 4,746
  • Tenth grade: 4,625
  • Eleventh grade: 4,305
  • Twelfth grade: 4,402

The study goes through each Howard school’s projected enrollments. Of Howard’s 42 elementary schools, 23 are expected to increase enrollment, 18 will decrease and one will maintain its student population. At the middle school level, 14 schools will welcome more students, while six schools will decrease in population. Ten Howard high schools will increase enrollment, while two will decrease.

The presentation of the study officially kicked off the school system’s boundary review process, also known as redistricting. The school board unanimously approved having the review process begin Thursday night.

The school system is embarking on a comprehensive redistricting process for the 2020-21 academic year that has the potential to affect the district’s 74 comprehensive schools.

Three schools — the Applications Research Laboratory, Homewood Center and Cedar Lane — are categorized as non-comprehensive and will not be part of the process.

The feasibility study offers possible redistricting options based on data and available student capacity numbers. There are 15 potential plans — eight at the elementary level, two at both the middle and high school levels, and three sample comprehensive boundary countywide plans — in the study.

Of the three sample countywide plans — one at the elementary, middle and high school levels — 2,540 high school students would be moved, 422 middle schoolers would be redistricted and 1,346 elementary students would attend a new school.

None of the potential plans are final and all are options until the school board’s approval in November, said Anissa Brown Dennis, chief operating officer for the school system.

Next steps include community feedback opportunities, with an online form that opened June 14, four input sessions throughout July and three school board public hearings in September.

The Attendance Area Committee will review the options in the feasibility study and advise Superintendent Michael Martirano as he develops his proposal for the school board.

Martirano, who is scheduled to present his plan at the Aug. 20 school board meeting, stressed the importance of civility.

“Not to make this daunting but … it is a long process,” Martirano said.

The school board is scheduled slated to approve the redistricting plan in November.

Read more Howard County Times news. »

jnocera@baltsun.com

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