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The Revolving Door Needs Widening

June 18, 2016

CALL TO ACTION - Council Hearing Monday 6/20 George Howard Bldg. 6PM

 

Please come to the next Council legislative hearing on Monday June 20th and testify regarding CR90 the open/closed school chart regarding development.

 

Each year, the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) creates the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) open/closed chart for schools. This chart shows what school districts are open or closed to residential development due to schools being over capacity. The chart shows the capacity of the school (how many students can fit in it), and then projects enrollment for many years out. If a school is 115% over-capacity or more, it is closed to new development (but for only 3-4 years max). The Council then receives the chart to approve as legislation.

 

This year’s chart has opened FIVE schools which used to be closed to development. -  Cradlerock ES, Elkridge ES, Veterans ES, Fulton ES and Patapsco MS.These schools are in areas set to receive plenty of new housing in coming years.

 

I sat on the APFO task force, and attended all the meetings, and heard many presentations on these issues. We were told that many things cause changes to projected enrollment including possible redistricting, cohort rates (classes moving up), birth rates, housing changes, etc. Statistical models are done, and much work goes into these calculations; however, I am concerned about how current the development data is that is used for the most recent year’s projected enrollment calculations, and the longer-term projections as well. We were told that the development figures included in the calculations each year, include projects approved through the previous January. Why aren’t more recent figures used?

 

Also, the number of students they predict are coming from developments often seems to be under-estimated. Current and projected fiscal budgets are used. Current program information is used. Current enrollment and ratios are used. Possible redistricting movements are used. If the development data is not the most current, then predictions of student enrollment are coming out lower than they should, and the schools are crowded NOW. The changes aren’t from a revolving door of ins and outs. The areas mentioned are set for plenty of growth, but the schools open with THIS chart.

 

There are plans for redistricting in 2017, if the next new school plans stay on track. It makes sense to use these figures for planning, and other projected data, but we need new housing data to be recent and accurately projected as well.

 

The recent increase in maximum average class size also will lead to faster-paced residential land development, because it increases the capacity number of the schools, even though there is not more room. When class size is increased, you can fit more kids into the same space.

 

I believe we should ask the Council to request more information from the HCPSS regarding how current new housing plans figures are in these charts, prior to opening schools to development.

 

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