24 Howard public schools listed as 'constrained,' limiting future residential development in those regions

May 15—Half of Howard County's public elementary schools and three of its middle schools were designated as "constrained" by the school board last week, meaning they are projected to be over capacity for enrollment in the 2026-2027 school year. As a result, residential development in the surrounding areas will be limited.

No high schools made the list.

Under the county's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, the school board is required to submit updated school capacity charts annually to help guide planning for new residential developments to assess potential impact on roads, schools and other facilities. The board unanimously approved the 2023 charts, which will now be reviewed by the County Council, which is scheduled to take action in July.

Capacity information is based on enrollment projections from the school system's 2022 Feasibility Study as well as projected school building capacity from the board's fiscal 2024 capital budget and Capital Improvement Program. Capacity utilization is calculated by dividing a school's projected enrollment by a building's capacity.

Schools are considered constrained for future residential development if their capacity utilizations exceed 105% at the elementary level, 110% at the middle school level and 115% at the high school level.

For the 2026-2027 school year, 21 elementary schools are listed as constrained, including: Cradlerock, Phelps Luck, Clemens Crossing, Elkridge, Hanover Hills, Rockburn, Veterans, Centennial Lane, Hollifield Station, Manor Woods, St. Johns Lane, Atholton, Bollman Bridge, Laurel Woods and Triadelphia Ridge.

Although their individual capacity utilizations are below 105%, Northfield, Waverly, Forest Ridge, Gorman Crossing, Guilford and Hammond elementary schools are also considered constrained to development since they sit in the northern and southeastern regions, which have average capacity utilizations of 108.2% and 105.4%, respectively.

The three middle schools marked as constrained for 2026-2027 are Hammond (128.8%), Patapsco (120%) and Patuxent Valley (118.6%). Dunloggin and Oakland Mills middle schools are listed at 103% and 87.9%, respectively, for 2026-2027, but are expected to drop to 73.4% and 63.6% in 2027-2028 after replacement buildings recently approved by the school board are built. Unless additional capacity is built at Hammond, Mount View and Patuxent Valley, these schools are projected to have utilizations of 137.4%, 115.4% and 134.7% by 2035-2036.

"We definitely still have some elementary schools and middle schools that are projected to be crowded due to enrollment," school planning manager Timothy Rogers said. "This is natural growth because of families moving into the county due to the attractive nature of the school system and other reasons. We continue to try to catch up with capacity and allow more schools to be open in the future."

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Although Long Reach, Marriotts Ridge, Mount Hebron and Reservoir high schools were listed as constrained for 2025-2026 in the 2022 capacity charts, this year no county high school is projected above 115% through the 2035-2036 school year. Marriotts Ridge has the highest listed utilization for 2026-2027 at 108.2%, while Mount Hebron has the lowest at 93.2%, down from about 116% this school year.

Rogers attributed the declines to the opening of Guilford Park High and completion of an addition at Hammond High later this year. Guilford Park will draw about 1,650 students away from Hammond, Howard and Long Reach high schools once all grades are attending. The school will open with 750 freshmen and sophomores this fall.

Per the school board's redistricting, more than 500 Reservoir students will be reassigned to Hammond, which opened in 1976 and has had two additions, in 1996 and 2011. The most recent renovation, which includes a two-story addition at the front of the building, will add 200 seats to the school.