Howard leans away from redistricting options to ease crowding in high schools

Jess Nocera
Contact ReporterHoward County Times

In ongoing efforts to tackle crowding in a handful of Howard County high schools, the county school board has decided against redrawing attendance boundaries for the next academic year and is looking at options to add or expand specialty programs that would attract students to other schools.

Six options, including an expansion of a dual-enrollment program between the school system and Howard Community College, and offering additional courses at the Applications and Research Laboratory high school, were presented at a school board work session Thursday night.

Redrawing school district lines, which could involve busing students to distant schools, has always been a hot-button topic and school planners look for ways to minimize disruptions to neighborhoods, academics and extracurricular activities.

The most crowded of Howard’s 12 high schools are Centennial, Hammond, Howard, Long Reach and Mt. Hebron.

The options center around Ellicott City’s Centennial and Howard high schools, the most populated schools, for the current school year.

One proposal under review is to allow Centennial and Howard high school students to voluntary transfer to Glenelg or Marriotts Ridge high schools.

The school system is also proposing to expand JumpStart, the dual-enrollment college program, into Wilde Lake and Marriotts Ridge. At Wilde Lake, the program would focus on performing arts and film production. Marriotts Ridge would offer courses on computer science, engineering and health professions.

Another option would provide a shuttle for students to finish their high school graduation requirements at the community college. Not to be confused with JumpStart, this program would not allow students to graduate with 30 or 60 college credits.

The school system also proposed to provide additional sections of courses at the ARL, including aerospace, finance and health academies.

The dual enrollment and ARL options would be available for all high school students.

Additional sections of work-based options — from gifted-and-talented internship and mentor programs, to apprenticeships and site-based work experiences — could be offered for Centennial and Howard students.

The school board, which is expected to make decisions on the options next week, also asked Superintendent Michael Martirano to look into voluntary, smaller-scale redistricting options.

Board member Sandra French said she “really believe[s] in the program options that were presented.”

“I really caution making all these decisions [academic programs and redistricting] this year … try the program options first, get the data [and] see how it works out,” she said.

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jnocera@baltsun.com

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