Redistricting among latest options to ease high school crowding

Jess Nocera
Contact ReporterHoward County Times

The Howard County school board next week will have a public hearing on options to relieve crowding in five high schools, including busing students to other schools miles away.

“We are going from crisis to crisis to crisis,” Christina Delmont-Small, a school board member, said. “I think we need to have a deeper conversation on what we want this [relieving overcrowding] to look like.”

Eight options — from redrawing school attendance border lines to opening a separate academy for ninth-graders starting as soon as the fall of 2019 — are being considered by the school board and will be reviewed at a Sept. 11 public hearing.

The most crowded of Howard’s 12 high schools are Centennial, Hammond, Howard, Long Reach and Mt. Hebron, said Jennifer Bubenko, planning specialist for the school system.

Each of the five high schools have portable, or temporary, classrooms on its campus. In the last school year, Centennial had five portable classrooms, Hammond had four, Howard had 15, Long Reach had four and Mt. Hebron had four, according to school data. For the 2018-19 school year, each of the five high schools is projected to have from 100 to 300 more students than they were designed to accommodate.

A so-called open enrollment option would allow students from Centennial, Howard, Long Reach or Mt. Hebron high schools to to be reassigned to an out-of-district school with adequate space, including Glenelg, Marriotts Ridge and Oakland Mills high schools.

Another option would allow temporary reassignments of ninth graders at Howard or Centennial high school for the 2019-2020 academic year to attend Marriotts Ridge, Oakland Mills or Wilde Lake high school for their freshman year, before transferring back to their home school.

A permanent reassignment option would have the 2019-2020 academic year freshman classes at either Howard or Centennial high schools, spending their entire high school career at Marriotts Ridge, Oakland Mills or Wilde Lake high schools.

A ninth-grade academy option would place Howard High School freshman at Faulkner Ridge Center in Columbia for their first year, or expanded as a countywide program, said Dan Lubeley, manager of design and preconstruction services. This plan would take effect for the 2020-2021 school year while Faulkner Ridge is renovated.

The Parent Teacher Association Council of Howard County will review all of the options at its first general meeting between all PTA presidents and delegates, according to Brent Loveless, council president.

Class sizes have increased twice in the past five years. During the past budget cycle, the Howard County Council shifted $5.1 million to keep class sizes from increasing.

jnocera@baltsun.com

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