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Balancing Enrollment

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

Rebalancing Steps

Community Values Survey Results
The first step in the boundary review was to conduct a survey of Harford County families. The survey helps to determine expectations and values across the school system. A phone survey was conducted with parents and guardians of a statistical representation of the racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, geographical, and educational program of the student population. Selected guardians were contacted between January 6th and February 26th. A web survey was also developed to provide all stakeholders an opportunity to participate in the process even if not included in the phone survey. The results of the phone and online survey are available in the Survey Response Dashboard.

Advisory Team

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:

  • Reviewing, questioning, and discussing one or more draft scenarios prepared by district staff and consultants to identify implementation and policy issues, major flaws, and unforeseen consequences.
  • Reviewing and considering input from community input forum events.
  • Ensuring that the guiding principles are considered throughout the process.
  • Make a final recommendation to the Superintendent.

Click here for the Guiding Principles approved by the Harford County Board of Education on December 21, 2020

The Team!


District Representatives
  • Chief of Administration (Office of the Superintendent)
  • Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources (Office of Human Resources)
  • Executive Director of Student Services (Office of Student Services)
  • Coordinator of Early Childhood Education (Office of Curriculum & Instruction)
  • Coordinator of Non-public Placement (Office of Special Education)
  • Executive Director of Elementary Education (Office of Elementary Education)
  • Executive Director of Secondary Education (Office of Secondary Education)
School Principals
  • Bel Air Elementary School
  • Bel Air Middle School
  • Edgewood Middle School
  • Edgewood High School
  • Havre de Grace Elementary School
  • William S. James Elementary School
  • Youth’s Benefit Elementary School

Parent Representatives

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.

  • Aberdeen
  • Bel Air
  • C. Milton Wright
  • Edgewood
  • Fallston
  • Havre de Grace
  • Joppatowne
  • North Harford
  • Patterson Mill
  • Special Education Citizens Advisory Committee (SECAC)
Content Specialists

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.

  • Assistant Superintendent for Operation (Office of Operations)
  • Director of Transportation (Transportation Department)
  • Coordinator of Special Education - Low Incidence Population (Special Education Department)
  • Executive Director of Facilities Management (Facilities Management Department)
  • Supervisor of Food & Nutrition (Food & Nutrition Department)
  • Coordinator of Safety & Security (Safety & Security Department)
  • Supervisor of Business, Technology & Magnet Programs (Office of Curriculum & Instruction)
  • Manager of Equity & Cultural Proficiency (Equity & Cultural Proficiency Department)
  • Chief of Long-Term Planning for Harford County Government (Harford County Planning & Zoning Department)

Advisory Team Meetings
Meeting 1: January 13, 2021
Meeting 2: February 10, 2021
Meeting 3: March 10, 2021
Meeting 4a: March 24, 2021
Meeting 4b: March 31, 2021
Meeting 5: April 28, 2021
Minutes will be added after the meeting.
Meeting 6: May 12, 2021
Minutes will be added after the meeting.
Meeting 7: June 16, 2021
Minutes will be added after the meeting.

Balancing Enrollment Web Map

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

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.

Elementary School Community Education Forum: April 14, 2021
Subject: Elementary School Boundaries
East & North Regions Click here to take the survey for this region.
  • Jarrettsville
  • North Bend
  • Norrisville
  • North Harford
  • Dublin
  • Darlington
Southeast Click here to take the survey for this region.
  • Meadowvale
  • Havre de Grace
  • Roye-Williams
  • Hall's Cross Roads
  • Bakerfield
  • George D. Lisby
Center West Click here to take the survey for this region.
  • Forest Hill
  • Forest Lakes
  • Hickory
  • Red Pump
  • Youth's Benefit
Center East Click here to take the survey for this region.
  • Bel Air
  • Churchville
  • Prospect Mill
  • Fountain Green
Center South Click here to take the survey for this region.
  • Abingdon
  • Church Creek
  • Emmorton
  • William S. James
  • Homestead/Wakefield
  • Ring Factory
  • William Paca/Old Post
South Click here to take the survey for this region.
  • Deerfield
  • Edgewood
  • Joppatowne
  • Magnolia
  • Riverside
Middle and High School Community Education Forum: June 02, 2021
Subject: Middle and High School Boundaries

Link to agenda and meeting access will be provided closer to the meeting date.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why is Harford County Public Schools (HCPS) reviewing school boundaries?

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.

Q. How are the boundaries being reviewed?

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.

Q: Who is on the Advisory Team and how were they selected?

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.

Q: When do the boundaries take effect?

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.

Q: Why are you starting this process during the COVID-19 pandemic?

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. 

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?

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.

Q: When will the final decision be made public?

A: The Board will make their final decision in February 2022 and develop an implementation plan.

Q: When will the public be able to view the boundary changes?

A: We are still in the analysis stages; the proposed scenarios are under development. Once the advisory team develops a feasible scenario for public consideration, the information will be posted to our webpage.

Q: Do parents have the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed boundary changes?

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.

 

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.

Q: What are the Guiding Principles?

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.

  • Implement a transparent and inclusive boundary review process that fosters the widespread and ongoing engagement of Harford County’s families and community members.
  • Take a district-wide perspective by considering the full scope of individual school capacities and student population projections to balance enrollment.
  • Operate in the best interest of students by prioritizing equitable access to safe, high-quality educational environments for all.
  • Consider the accessibility of regional programs and signature academic programs & the long-term needs of special populations (e.g., students with special needs, early learners, etc.) with each decision.
  • Maintain neighborhood schools that optimize proximity to home, prioritize safe, walkable passages to and from school, and take into account the boundaries of existing & planned community developments.
  • Consider transportation impacts and work towards limiting the amount of time required on a bus to 45 minutes or less each way.
  • Optimize operational efficiency and ensure the sustainable allocation of district resources with each decision.

Q: Will growth and development be considered in the plan? What data will be used?

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.

Q: Is HCPS considering the impact to property values during this process?

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.

Q: Is HCPS coordinating with the people who make decisions about development in Harford County?

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.

Q: Why can’t HCPS just add portable or relocatable classrooms to overcrowded schools?

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.

Q: Will transportation time and walking distance be considered in this plan?

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.

Q: How will parents be notified of the potential changes to bus drop-off and pick-up times once the plan is final?

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.

Q: How will staffing decisions be made with boundary adjustments? Will staffing be added as programs are added?

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.

Q: How do the boundary changes affect class size?

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).

Q: Why was there a phone survey and who received the phone survey?

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.