Howard County leaders searching for immediate solutions to overcrowding at public schools

COLUMBIA — 16 Howard County public schools are getting too crowded, and by the school district’s estimates, they’re going to get even more crowded soon.

During a special meeting Tuesday, the Howard County Public School System met with Howard County Council and the Howard County Board of Education to discuss overcrowding at certain schools.

HCPSS came in with some solutions, but council members and BOE members wanted immediate action.

All the schools — eight elementary schools, seven middle schools, and one high school — are at 95% capacity or higher. The enrollment numbers come from the 2023-2024 school year.

These schools’ populations are expected to reach 110% capacity or higher by 2028, according to HCPSS estimates.

Bryant Woods Elementary School in Columbia is one of the schools that’s overcrowded, sitting at 115.2% capacity right now. In 2028, it’s slated to be at 131.8% capacity.

Deb Jung, Howard County Council chair, was one of the leaders asking for immediate solutions. “We’ve got a school right next door [to Bryant Woods] that’s at 80% capacity. I mean, sometimes acting with quickness can really just make a difference,” she said.

Tim Rogers, manager of school planning for HCPSS, went over the school district’s solutions. He explained there are capital projects underway at some of the overcrowded schools that can add space. He also mentioned there are two new elementary schools that will be built.

Rogers also mentioned redistricting as an option, however, it can only be done at a certain time because of policies in place. “If [redistricting] were to be implemented for the 2024-2025 school year, [the process] would have had to take place a year ago, let’s say January of 2023,” he said.

Still, others in the meeting wanted to act faster.

“If we’re talking about 30 students, perhaps then we talk to those parents and say this is the situation. I don’t know why we’re so bound by things,” said BOE member Jacky McCoy.

Dwight Butler of Columbia put his kids through Howard County public schools, and his grandkids are now going through the school district.

After WJZ explained the overcrowding situation, he said it’s concerning, especially with the teacher shortage and other existing issues.

But, he remains hopeful it’ll be solved.

“To every problem there’s a solution and somehow I think with time, it’ll be worked out,” Butler said. “They can fit this thing to work because education is the number one priority in society.”

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