Tag: Howard County Public School System

Howard County School Board Narrows Redistricting Options

Words: Delanie Tucker

The Howard County School Board is in the process of resolving the overpopulation of several Howard County schools.

In a recent Board Meeting on October 11, 2018, the board met for the second time this academic year to discuss redistricting options for upcoming school years.

Caroline Walker, Executive Director of Program Innovation and Student Well-Being, presented and explained several options to relieve the overcrowding of Howard County schools, particularly focusing on Howard High School and Centennial High School.

The options consist primarily of voluntary changes, some for only a portion of the school day and others for the entire year.

The ideas presented were: a Howard County Community College Shuttle, JumpStart Program at Wilde Lake High School, Project Lead the Way at Marriotts Ridge High School, reassignment, additional ARL courses, and additional sections of work-based options.

The Howard County Community Shuttle would consist of participating students, juniors and seniors staying at their home school for first period to participate in classes such as band or orchestra and then taking a bus to HCC. The students will take and receive credit for college-level courses, as well as finish out their graduation required classes.

Students would be picked up by bus from their home school and be taken to HCC. These buses, though, would cost $9,000 a piece if they were to travel to Centennial or Howard to pick up students.

The problem presented with this option, pointed out by Sandra French, a member of the Board, was that music classes are not during first period, and not all classes can be moved to first period to fit the needs of certain students.

Walker predicted, based off a previous survey, that 40-60 students would participate in the HCC shuttle.

The JumpStart program at Wilde Lake High School would require students to transfer to Wilde Lake in order to participate.

It has an estimated price of $250,000, which would vary depending on the number of participating students.

This particular program is directed towards students interested in performing arts and film production. The arts program at Wilde Lake is looking to progress, and offers better opportunities for interested artists. The estimated participation for this is 15-20 students from each school.

Project Lead the Way, on the other hand, consists of a Biochemical Academy and a Computer Science Academy.

Again, this option would require a school transfer, this time to Marriotts Ridge High School.

Additionally, Walker presented an estimated price of $63,000, which is a combination of material and training for all academies.

The option of reassignment, previously known as open enrollment, would give students free reign to transfer to either Glenelg High School or Marriotts Ridge High School. A problem presented with this, though, is that students would have to provide their own transportation.

A positive with this option is that it would cost nothing to implement.

Additional sections of work-based options would help to decrease overcrowding during the day. Examples are GT intern/mentor, apprenticeship, and work release, all of which would help upperclassmen get real-world experience.

The problem with this, though, is the more students that enter the program, the more teachers they will need. A new teacher would cost the board $84,000.

Ideally, the Board would like to implement most, if not all, ideas at once. Their concern revolves around the question: where will the money come from?

The last option to fix overcrowding issues, presented by Anissa Brown Dennis, Chief Operating Officer, was redistricting in the form of boundary changes.

Her original intent was to present all plan options, which included: 2017 Feasibility Study Plan, 2017 Attendance Area Committee Plan I and II (August and September), Community plans as identified by Board members, and Howard High School small feeds.

The Board, however, voted to discontinue the presentation after the 2017 Feasibility Plan, and instead had conversation about small feeds.

Their votes were primarily based around the fact that, in a previous meeting, they had voted to not change school boundaries for the upcoming school year, so the presentation did not seem necessary at that moment.

The Board will begin making decisions in regard to the 2019-2020 school year in a meeting on October 18.

In a previous meeting on August 23, there was an idea of temporary and permanent freshmen redistricting, but this idea seems to have been taken out of the conversation, as it was not mentioned in the recent meeting.

This option would have consisted of incoming freshmen being relocated, either for just their freshman year or possibly their entire high school career.

Since no final changes have been made, Centennial students will have to work through the issues overcrowding brings.

Cynthia Dillon, Centennial’s principal who was present at the meeting, is confident in her students’ ability to make their school environment as comfortable as possible, despite the circumstances.

“The distances the students have to travel, while they are in some crowded hallways, they are very creative about how they get from point A to point B,” Dillon stated at the meeting. “They are also using their time. They are walking with a purpose, they are being efficient with how they get from point A to point B and we have not identified a problem with students arriving to class tardy.”

Ellie Zoller-Gritz contributed with background information, analysis and images for this article.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Possible Weather Delay

Howard County Public School System has recently sent an e-mail to those subscribed to HCPSS News containing the following alert:

“High school parents are advised that there is a possibility that Wednesday morning weather may require a 2-hour school opening delay. Since high schools were scheduled to dismiss 2 hours early on Wednesday, in the event of a delay, high schools would remain open until the regularly scheduled dismissal time.”

The Wingspan will be bringing you up-to-date coverage of any school alerts, so be sure to check back.


Technology Spreading to Students

by Jonah Drenning

Ellicott City, MD – How would you like to be allowed to use your smart phone in school? Do you think it could be useful to help you learn? Or just a distraction?

Recently, the Carroll County School System has considered changing its policy on electronics in schools, according to carrollcountytimes.com. The Carroll County Board of Education is reconsidering which phones and other electronics can be used for educational purposes. Smart phones are banned in most school systems, but teachers use increasing amounts of technology in instruction.

Teachers are using technology such as interactive whiteboards to teach their classes. Also, each teacher in the Carroll County School System is assigned a laptop and a projector for use during the year. Teachers at Centennial also have access to a laptop, a project, and document cameras that are becoming commonplace in the classroom.

Many teachers and staff enjoy using the new technology and believe that it helps them teach, grade, and communicate with other teachers, students, and parents quickly and efficiently.

“My favorite part of the technology is that I can do research for projects using the reliable sources and databases from the school website,” said Sophomore Jeffrey Tse.

Teachers in Howard County use a website, Aspen, to inform students and parents of grades as soon as the teacher finishes grading, and students no longer wait until the teacher hands back the work. However, the transition from the old, similar service TeacherEase was difficult, and technology can be difficult to manage.

Issues with the new uses of technology in the school system include the quick replacement cycle for computers, the high cost of maintaining and buying technology, and the potential for misuse that technology comes with. The schools technology does not always work correctly.

“Some of the school’s technology is not up to date, and the website we look at for grades is very buggy,” said Sophomore Ankur Holz.

Keeping in mind the advantages and drawbacks of using technology in the classroom, school systems across the state must make a decision about the amount of technology that students will be able to use. Current Howard County policy requires phones off and out of view during the day. This policy does not account for smart phones having qualities of computers and potential for education.

“You can use your phone as a dictionary or calculator for most classes, and you could even use it as a metronome or tuner for music classes,” said Sophomore Connor Lin.

Smart phones can be used as a substitute for many common classroom tools. They can be dictionaries, planners, calculators, sketchbooks, and search engines. Although phones can be misused in class, allowing students to use phones during class might cut down on “illegal” use. Schools must still be careful if they are to adopt a new technology policy.

Cyber-bullying and theft are issues that would have to be addressed in a new technology policy. Cyber-bullying has been covered in several assemblies throughout the past few years, but it is still an issue.

“As more social networking is established, there are more opportunities for people to take advantage of innocent lives susceptible to attacks,” said Holz.

Theft is a problem that would only grow if students could use their smart phones in class. Currently the Howard County School System is not responsible for stolen electronics during the day, as they are banned in school, but that could change if students could use phones in school.

“Yes, if phones were allowed for use in school the school [should be] partially responsible because they authorized the use,” said Holz.

Another reason to include technology in the curriculum is how it puts all students on an equal playing field. Technology improves disabled or shy students’ learning experience. A study conducted in schools in North Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota found that increased use in technology enhanced the learning experience of the majority of the students, according to carroltechcouncil.org.

With the increase of use of technology in many people’s daily lives, the Howard County Public School System may have to reaffirm or take a new stance on technology in the near future.

Decision To Change Grading Scale On Hold (Miranda Mason)

On Thursday September 13, 2012, a Board of Education meeting was held
in Ellicott City in order to consider a change to the grading scale
for county high schools.

There were three options for possible changes to the grading scale,
but no decision was made. At the meeting, it was decided that more
information must be gathered before a final decision is made.

At the meeting it was debated whether to keep the grading scale as the
current 10 point scale, use only percentage points until the final
grade is calculated at the end of the course, or to use a plus-minus

“I think we should keep it the same,” said sophomore Andrew Pelletier
about the grading scale. “It’s working how it is.”

If the plus-minus system is adopted, students will still receive
letter grades, however there will now be a plus or minus grade for
each letter. This would be a more accurate representation of the
students’ score, however it would also affect the students’ GPA’s.
This could adversely affect athletes who currently maintain the C
average necessary to be eligible to play sports; a C minus would make
their GPA lower than the 2.0 that is required.

The percentage system would also provide a more accurate view of the
grade the students’ earn, but it will not affect GPA’s any differently
than the current system.

The current grading scale is being criticized for having codes that do
not relate to the grade the student earned, such as codes for not
showing up for a final or entering late into the course.