Harford County Public Schools (HCPS) has contracted with FLO Analytics to conduct a system-wide school boundary review. This review is due to an increase in enrollment and special program needs over the past five years (2015-2019). These increases have resulted in overcrowding at some schools, while others are underutilized. Throughout the process, HCPS will request input from the parents/guardians, students, staff, community, and other stakeholders.
The boundary review process is necessary to optimize facility utilization, or more simply, to make sure our buildings are being used to serve students in the best way possible. It is anticipated that the boundary review will take approximately 9 months. At the conclusion of the 9 months, the results and recommendations will be presented to the Superintendent. At that time, the Superintendent will hold public hearings and will subsequently make the Superintendent’s recommendation to the Board of Education. We anticipate this will occur in the fall of 2021. The Board of Education will continue to engage the public through February of 2022 prior to reaching a final decision on boundary adjustments. We anticipate the approved adjustments will go into effect for the start of the 2022-2023 school year.
Our top priority is to make boundary adjustments equitable and focus on students’ success. Your input and participation from the beginning of the process are essential and necessary to ensure the success of this review. Please continue to remain engaged and check back for regular updates here
At the Business Meeting on October 25, 2021, the Superintendent presented the Board of Education of Harford County (BOE) with his recommendations to address overcrowding in our schools. The BOE is currently evaluating the recommendations. More information about BOE community input sessions will be available soon. The BOE will make a final decision on Balancing Enrollment in February of 2022.
As the Board of Education reviews the Superintendent’s recommendation to address overcrowding in our schools they would like to hear from the public. The Board of Education will host the second and final hybrid, public engagement forum. The forum has been rescheduled for Thursday, January 27, 2022 from 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM and will be all virtual. Those wishing to provide comment virtually, must register by 9:00 AM on Thursday, January 27, 2022.
CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR PUBLIC COMMENT
The Board of Education hosted a hybrid, public engagement forum on Monday, December 13 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. If you were unable to attend the event, click the here to watch a video recording.
With the goal of supporting long-term balanced enrollment and sustainable facility usage for the 2022-23 school year and beyond, the Advisory Team is charged with reviewing and giving input to proposed updates to boundary area, school grade, programmatic, and facilities usage reconfigurations for the 2022-23 school year and beyond. The Advisory Team’s assessment and analysis will include:
Click here for the Guiding Principles approved by the Harford County Board of Education on December 21, 2020
Parent representatives from PTAs have volunteered from each of the following attendance areas. Volunteers have a mix of elementary, middle, and high school students within the Harford County Public Schools system.
Content area specialists provide support and guidance to the options development team. Content specialists will participate in all Advisory Team meetings and provide critical information about their area of expertise as needed in the options development process. Enables oversight to ensure options chosen will meet the needs and desired outcomes of the district.
The Balancing Enrollment web map allows the community to view the current boundary adjustment scenarios being evaluated by the Advisory Team. Currently, the map only shows scenarios for elementary schools. This information is subject to change throughout the planning process. This web map contains existing boundaries and will be updated with boundary revision options as the committee process progresses. Please note, the Advisory Team will be reviewing the middle school and high school boundaries in the coming months and that data will be added to the map at that time.
Click the map below to access the HCPS Balancing Enrollment Web Map.
Community Education Forums are set up to allow the community the opportunity to view proposed boundary adjustment scenarios and ask questions. For one week following each meeting, an exit survey will be available on our website to contribute feedback on the boundary scenarios being discussed. The two meetings, listed below, are the initial meetings as part of the assessment process. The community will have several additional opportunities to review and comment on the proposed boundary adjustments. The Superintendent will also hold public hearings prior to making a recommendation to the Board of Education in September 2021. The Board of Education will continue to hear public comments from September through February of 2022.
On June 23, 2021, the Advisory Team completed their assessment and provided the Superintendent recommendations to balance enrollment with boundary adjustments. Working with Flo Analytics and HCPS staff, the Superintendent evaluated the Advisory Team recommendations in conjunction with public concerns expressed through public comment at Board of Education meetings and written communications (e-mail, HCPS web page, etc.).
On September 14, 2021, the Superintendent released draft recommendations to address overcrowding within HCPS with the goal to impact as few students as possible. Three (3) virtual, public engagement forums were held; Wednesday, September 22, 2021, Thursday, September 23, 2021, and Thursday, September 30, 2021. During these forums, the Superintendent presented his draft recommendations to attendees, then participants were broken out into small discussion groups to provide feedback on the changes. A survey was also posted online to allow all community members to provide feedback on the recommendations. Utilizing this feedback, prior public feedback, and additional student enrollment data, the recommendations were finalized. The recommendations are broken down into 4 major sections.
The Superintendent released his draft recommendations to address overcrowding in our schools. He held three virtual public input forums to engage the public for feedback. If you were unable to attend the forums, you can watch the Superintendent present his draft recommendations using the link below.
1. Q: Why is Harford County Public Schools (HCPS) reviewing school boundaries?
1. A: We are reviewing school boundaries due to an increase in enrollment and special program needs over the past five years (2015-2019). These increases have resulted in overcrowding at some schools, while others are underutilized. The boundary review process is necessary to optimize facility utilization, or more simply, to make sure our buildings are being used to serve students in the best way possible.
2. Q: How are the boundaries being reviewed?
2. A: We are partnering with FLO Analytics to provide HCPS with boundary review services. FLO Analytics has been contracted to lead the boundary review and community engagement process that will result in recommendations that will guide the planning and implementation of reconfigured attendance areas. FLO Analytics has taken current and future enrollment, future residential development data, and a set of guiding principles into consideration to develop and present “Springboard Proposals” to the Advisory Team. This Springboard Proposal is a starting place for the Advisory Team, who will work to refine the options presented using on-the-fly modeling capabilities. The Advisory Team will also consider feedback from the public at two community input forums and revise the boundary options accordingly.
3. Q: Who is on the Advisory Team and how were they selected?
3. A: The Advisory Team consists of parents of elementary, middle, and/or high students, principals, county planners, and central office leadership staff. Parent/guardian members were randomly selected after expressing interest through their school’s PTA. One parent/guardian representative for each attendance area within the County was selected. The Advisory Team was designed to balance perspectives from various schools.
4. Q: When do the boundaries take effect?
4. A: The new attendance boundaries will likely take effect in September 2022, but the School Board must formally adopt the transition plan and timelines for new attendance boundaries. A transition timeline will be recommended by the Superintendent after boundary adjustments are recommended by the Advisory Team.
5. Q: Will there be the possibility of a "grandfather" provision for some students so they will not have to change boundaries based on specific situations?
5. A: Once the boundary modifications are identified, implementation options will be evaluated based on multiple factors such as facility capacities, number of impacted students, and transportation. An implementation recommendation will be presented to the Board of Education for approval.
6. Q: When will the final decision be made public?
6. A: The Board will make their final decision in February 2022 and develop an implementation plan.
7. Q: What are the Guiding Principles?
7. A: Guiding principles are the set of values that guide research, thinking, and decision making in this complex and multi-faceted process. The guiding principles are derived from HCPS policies, insights gained from HCPS leadership, Board of Education members, student enrollment forecasting, and best practice from across the country.
8. Q: Is HCPS considering the impact to property values during this process?
8. A: Harford County Public Schools (HCPS) strives to ensure all schools offer the same high-quality education to all students. Balancing enrollment across the district is intended to result in a more efficient and equitable delivery of the educational program. Property values are not a factor in developing educational programs to student and as such are not a criterion in the Board of Education approved Guiding Principles or any other policy for balancing enrollment.
The Harford County Government Department of Planning and Zoning (P&Z) analyzed County home values by zip code based on the Zillow home value index. They found that the trend for home values is increasing across the county regardless of the present school assignments. However, since the school assignment is only one of many factors that influence home value, it is not possible to say if a boundary change will have a direct impact on home values.
9. Q: How will staffing decisions be made with boundary adjustments? Will staffing be added as programs are added?
9. A: In general, teachers, administrators, and other instructional staff are allocated to schools based upon the programs offered at the school and student enrollment. Once boundary adjustments are approved by the Board of Education, staffing will be adjusted based on the revised forecast. Staffing for each school is re-evaluated every year and adjustments are made to reflect program and enrollment changes.
10. Q: How do the boundary changes affect class size?
10. A: The goal is to keep classrooms at or under the state recommended maximum class size while ensuring enough space at each school for students in specialized programs (Pre-K/Special Education).
11. Q: What data are you using for the balancing enrollment process?
12. Q: Why is the Homestead Wakefield Elementary School Capacity changing?
12. A: The scope study for the Homestead Wakefield project was approved by the Board of Education on December 21, 2020. The scope study provided a general capacity for the replacement school. HCPS is currently developing the Educational Specification document for the replacement school. This document clearly outlines the educational spaces needed and the requirements of those spaces. Through this process, HCPS has been able to refine the facility capacity for general education, special education, and Pre-k based on program needs. Any adjustments through this process have been incorporated into the balancing enrollment process.
13. Q: Do parents have the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed boundary changes?
13. A: Yes, there are multiple stages in the process and the public are encouraged to provide feedback at each stage. If you are interested in participating, we encourage you to register for HCPS community outreach to ensure that you receive all public communication about the balancing enrollment initiative and other HCPS important announcements as we move forward in the process. To register click here for Parents or here for Community Members. Please note, by registering here, you will receive communications on all topics related to HCPS, including balancing enrollment updates.
Assessment (January 2021 – June 2021): The Advisory Team will hold public forums to hear public feedback on the proposed scenarios. The public forums are scheduled for April 14, 2021 for elementary school boundary discussions and June 2, 2021 for middle and high school boundary discussions.
Superintendent (July 2021 – September 2021): The superintendent will hold public hearings to listen to community concerns and make adjustment prior to making his recommendation to the Board of Education in September of 2021.
Board of Education (September 2021 – February 2022): The Board of Education will hold public hearings and make any modification prior to making a final decision February of 2022.
14. Q: When will the public be able to view the boundary changes?
14. A: Scenarios are posted on our webpage as they are developed for public review. As iterations are posted, HCPS will send out public announcement and provide information about how to comment on and express concerns about the scenario. The feedback collected will be provided to the Advisory Team to analyze and continue to refine the proposed boundary adjustment scenario.
15. Q: Why was there a phone survey and who received the phone survey?
15. A: FLO Analytics had Critical Data, a survey firm, contact households in the HCPS School District between January 5, 2021 and February 26, 2021. The survey firm completed 640 one-on-one executive-style telephone interviews to get statistically significant and proportionately representative community feedback from parents/guardians across the district. HCPS also made their own communication to all families to make them aware of the external survey and provided an online survey link to families with survey questions and received over 4,000 responses. This feedback is integral to aid in the Advisory Team’s decision-making process by elevating our communities’ values.
16. Q: Why are you starting this process during the COVID-19 pandemic?
16. A: While the Advisory Team portion of this process started during the pandemic, the planning, funding, and contracting portion of the project was in progress prior to the pandemic. As students return to school, HCPS is facing the same capacity issues impacting class sizes and staffing decisions. Additionally, it is essential that HCPS continues to plan for and is prepared to meet the future needs of our students. This process will assist HCPS in the facilities planning to ensure our school buildings are best serving the needs of students.
17. Q: What impact will the Virtual Program from Home (eLearning) have on the schools that are over capacity?
17. A: Registration for the virtual school option starting in the 21/22 school year is currently open. In June of 2021, we will evaluate the enrollment data for that program and the potential impacts to our analysis.
18. Q: How is the decrease in enrollment due to COVID-19 being included in the balancing enrollment process?
18. A: The student forecasting data used for the balancing enrollment process is based on the 2019 enrollment, birth rates, and succession ratios. While overall enrollment decreased for the 2020/21 school year due to COVID-19, the county Adequate Public Facility (APF) ordinance moratorium remains in place for three (3) elementary schools (Bel Air, Homestead/Wakefield, and Havre de Grace) and one (1) middle school (Bel Air). As we move into the 2021/22 school year, we will re-evaluate the enrollment numbers. Any discrepancies in trends and the balancing enrollment process will be provided to the superintendent and the Board of Education for use in developing and approving final boundary adjustments.
19. Q: Will transportation time and walking distance be considered in this plan?
19. A: Yes. The Advisory Team will consider existing walking paths and infrastructure, and HCPS' Transportation Director is serving as a Content Specialist to the Advisory Team, weighing in on any impacts to bus routes.
20. Q: How are transportation times and routes considered when evaluating potential change options?
20. A: Due to the preliminary nature of the current proposed boundary scenarios, specific bus route information is not available. At this point in the process, transportation has reviewed the potential boundary adjustments from two perspectives.
If boundary adjustments are approved by the Board of Education (February 2022), student routing will occur.
21. Q: How will new transportation routes be developed?
21. A: All bus routes will follow established routing guidelines (under non-emergency circumstances) including, but not limited to, the following.
Exceptions to the existing guidelines are reviewed and approved by a supervisor. Community members should reach out directly to the transportation office with any specific routing concerns. It is important to note, bus routes are subject to change at any time to maximize efficiency and address operational considerations.
22. Q: How will parents be notified of the potential changes to bus drop-off and pick-up times once the plan is final?
22. A: Prior to the implementation school year, the HCPS Communication Office will execute a multi-media communication plan to help prepare the community for any changes. At that time, parents and guardians will be advised that HCPS bus stops, and schedules may be impacted by the boundary adjustments and that all bus routing information can be found on the HCPS bus locator link on the HCPS website or contact the school for updated information.
23. Q: Will growth and development be considered in the plan? What data will be used?
23. A: HCPS has developed enrollment projections based on grade progression trends and birth rates in accordance with the Maryland Department of Planning’s state-wide enrollment projection guidelines. Consultants at FLO Analytics collected and compiled data from federal, state, and local municipalities including zoning information, land-use laws, and current residential development permits and conducted interviews with county and city planners to develop residential growth expectations for the future. The land-use information is then integrated into the HCPS enrollment projections.
24. Q: Is HCPS coordinating with the people who make decisions about development in Harford County?
24. A: HCPS works with the Harford County Government Department of Planning and Zoning (P&Z) throughout the year to ensure the county Adequate Public Facilities (APF) law is implemented. This law regulates land development and requires the existing public facilities for water, sewer, schools, and roads be adequate to support the planned land development. This ordinance is a part of the county subdivision code.
When it comes to schools, preliminary plans for subdivisions of greater than five lots cannot be approved in school districts where the full-time enrollment currently exceeds, or is projected to exceed, 110% capacity within three (3) years. This task is accomplished by monitoring developments by school district and monitoring school enrollment. The same information is a factor in school enrollment forecasts and the modeling for the attendance boundary evaluation underway.
When schools become overcrowded, P&Z will close the attendance area to new subdivision proposals for that school. The school may remain overcrowded but new subdivisions will not be approved. The system is not exact. For example, a subdivision which was approved before a school exceeded 110% capacity may continue to produce new houses after enrollment has exceeded 110%. Unlike other counties in Maryland, the prohibition is indefinite, and P&Z cannot require HCPS build new schools due to overcapacity or change attendance boundaries. It is not the intention of HCPS to leave schools overcrowded so new development will not proceed.
25. Q: Why can't HCPS just add portable or relocatable classrooms to overcrowded schools?
25. A: The State Rated Capacity (SRC) of a school is calculated by Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) according to the Code of Maryland Regulation (COMAR) 23.03.02.04A. According to this regulation, neither State nor locally owned relocatable classrooms are counted towards a school’s capacity. The SRC is calculated based on permanent instructional spaces. The Harford County Government Adequate Public Facility (APF) ordinance is written based on the SRC of a school. Therefore, adding portable or relocatable classrooms will not remove the APF restriction in that attendance area.
Additionally, while portable or relocatable classrooms can provide temporary relief for overcrowded schools, it does not resolve all the capacity issues within a school building. Common spaces within schools, such as the cafeteria, are designed to serve a specific student population. Adding portable or relocatable classrooms does not provide relief within these spaces and resulting scheduling adjustments are not advantageous for students.
26. Q: Can HCPS build an addition to the facilities over capacity?
26. A: The answer to this question is multi-layered. Through the balancing enrollment process, HCPS is looking at all potential solutions. However, we must also be good stewards with taxpayer funding. Our school system receives local and State funding each year. Funding includes the operating funding (salaries, building operation, teaching materials, etc.) and capital funding (construction projects, infrastructure upgrades, etc.). The decision to add capacity to a facility not only impacts the capital budget with the upfront cost of construction but also the long-term cost of operating the school.
The current County administration has committed to funding one major capital project at a time. Each project takes approximately two (2) years to complete. Based on that timeline, HCPS has developed a Capital Improvement Program (CIP) prioritizing the facilities with the highest needs.
Major capital projects are also partially State funded. The amount of State funding is directly related to enrollment and capacity at the requested school and adjacent schools. This is to ensure school districts are utilizing the existing schools to the maximum capacity before funding projects to add capacity.
The balancing enrollment process will help to determine if there is a need to add capacity to our school system with additions and/or new schools. If it is determined there is a need, the balancing enrollment process will also help to prioritize the capacity projects with our funding outlook and other facility needs.
1/20/2022 3:12:43 PM