Boundary Exceptions a “Critical” Issue in Harford County Elementary School Redistricting

When the Harford County Board of Education redraws elementary school attendance boundaries, what will happen to students seeking boundary exceptions?

Changes to attendance boundaries are planned for next year to relieve overcrowding and to balance enrollment among the county’s 33 elementary schools. Complicating the redistricting effort will be boundary exceptions, which allow students to attend a county school outside their home district.

Boundary exceptions are granted by HCPS for qualifying reasons that include childcare arrangements and family or personal hardship. When granted, boundary exceptions are good for one year, and approval in one school year is no guarantee of approval the next. Parents must supply their own transportation to the receiving school or to the nearest bus stop serving the school.

According to HCPS administrative guidelines, boundary exceptions are generally limited when a receiving school is at or above 95% of capacity, or when grade-level class size standards have been exceeded. If redistricting is successful in relieving overcrowding, some schools that had been closed to boundary exceptions may open up, but only until the enrollment limits set forth in the guidelines are reached.

On the other hand, boundary exceptions granted as a benefit to HCPS employees are not limited by enrollment at the receiving school. So while redistricting may reduce enrollment at overcrowded schools, employee boundary exceptions can work in the opposite direction.

Highlighting boundary exceptions as a “critical” issue for school board members to address, the Superintendent’s Technical Advisory Committee has outlined potential changes for consideration. Such changes include suspending boundary exceptions for next year and the year after, allowing liberal implementation of boundary exceptions, and making some adjustments to the current criteria.

Overall, 914 elementary students were granted boundary exceptions as of November 30, 2010, or just over 5% of the elementary school population. The majority of exceptions were granted to accommodate parents’ childcare arrangements; 203 exceptions were granted to HCPS employees.

The following chart outlines the number of children moving to and from each elementary school due to boundary exceptions, and the number of exceptions granted for each qualifying reason:

Special Programs

Special programs housed at some elementary schools will also impact redistricting, as students are drawn to those programs from other county schools. The largest special programs by far are for pre-kindergarten and early intervention. Of the 853 students attending special programs this year, 312 do so in a school other than their home district.

While the impact of special programs has been factored into the enrollment figures in the latest redistricting draft, the following chart outlines the specific HCPS elementary schools with special programs and the number of in-district, and out-of-district students at each school.


  1. Harfordmom says

    I figured they would do away with the boundary exemptions for next year – especially for daycare reasons. From how I’m reading this, I am correct.

  2. HCPS Volunteer says

    I feel that the BOE taking away boundary exceptions is a very wrong idea. First of all, it is the very least that they can do for county employees, especially teachers who look after everyone elses kids all day. They deserve to have their own children where they feel fit. Also, non-HCPS employeses also have to hold down jobs and if day cares are full in their district then they need to get a boundary exception to another school. Those parents have to work as well to keep a roof over their heads. I know alot of teachers who will raise the roof off the board of ed building and expose so much to the county that goes on in schools if they are denied a boundary exception and the the BOE knows this. This is not going to happen.

    • Phil Dirt says

      IF what you wrote is true, I think the teachers that know of improper actions in the schools should be ashamed of themselves if they are only willing to expose it when it personally benefits them.

      Actually, what you are describing sounds like extortion or blackmail. Now we know what you think those who teach our children are capable of. Thanks!

      • HCPS Volunteer says

        No Phil Dirt!!! You obviously know nothing about how the school system works. If teachers open their mouths then they are fired. Think what you want. However, I would have to say that that only happened under Jackie Haas and her sidekick Jon O’Neil. This current administration might be completely different. Who Knows. I personally know a teacher whose daughter was bullied so much she left school to be home schooled because the school did nothing about it. She was going to sue and was told that if she sued then she should start looking for another job. That is how the school system works.

          • Not from Here says

            Let’s see, I want to sue my employer. Do I think that would jeopardize my emplyment? Only someone very naive would think anything else.

    • Ethel says

      The problem is that the policy states if a school is at 95% then Boundary Exceptions are denied. It was never meant to be a free for all for any employee. Now that it has become such a problem and the school system is saying that they are “balancing enrollment” they are going to have to deal with it. If they wanted to they could do a tiered system wherein people who worked in a school had first right of refusal if spots are available although teachers or guidance counselors having their kids in school can present a dilemma.

      You do understand how hypocritical it is for the school system to tell parents that they should be okay sending their kids to any school but then that particular school isnt good enough for a school system employee and it has nothing to do with day care. I didn’t know middle and high school kids needed boundary exceptions for day care… Why is it that school system employees can send their kids to a school like Bel Air that has a ” medical arts signature program” but no other parent can. My student would have really benefited from those classes that they don’t offer at the home school.

  3. Harfordmom says

    oh I don’t think the “benefit” of boundary exceptions for teachers will disappear…sorry if I gave you that impression.

    However I do think it will happen to the rest of us who by the way also work hard and who also want their children to go where they see fit so I’m shocked that you would think anything else. Teachers should be “educating” kids, not “looking after them as you wrote – that’s the problem.

    I pay a lot of money for a daycare center and my son goes to the school in that district. I knew we’d have to apply each year, provide transportation and no promises were made for following years, I was good with that. We work hard and want better for our son just like you.(and most everyone I think)I was willing to gamble we’d be able to keep him there till 5th grade, I lost the bet.

    I saw this coming last year and the decision was private school or move…Private schools are religious and I’m not a hypocrite. Our house just went up for sale. Even at his school now, I saw a decline from last year. I also noticed they don’t do much for the “high performing” kids. His “home school” is worse, so now we have to leave, sad really because I thought it was a good school system – perhaps it was.

  4. HCPS Volunteer says

    Harford Mom!!! You obviously did not read my post carefully. I am not an HCPS teacher. I stated right in there that NON-HCPS (meaning the tax payers of this county) work just as hard and deserve that right. Teachers do “educate” the kids but they look after their well being and safety as well. It is not “all educating that goes on.” Teachers are responsible for each and every child’s safety that goes far beyond educating them. HCPS teachers deserve the same for their own kids just like you and I do.

  5. Dorothy says

    Often, teachers request boundary exceptions for reasons other than, “they want their children to go to a better school”. If both parents of an elementary child are high school or middle school teachers, how are they going to get that child to school? The before school programs begin at 7 AM, but that’s when the high school duty day starts. They have to rely on others to help them get their children to school. I know of several families that have 2 high school teachers as parents that have their students on boundary exceptions based on where they can get others (day care, family, friends) to help them get their children to school. Getting rid of boundary exceptions completely would definitely make it super difficult for these families.

    • Kate says

      I think it is a bad idea to get rid of them completely too but the problem is that it has gone unchecked and when you have so many that a middle school is overcrowded because of them, what do you do? Maybe if they let the personnel in the building have them then it wouldn’t be as much of a problem. I know at Patterson MIll, the PTA has gone to the school system and asked them to look into it and maybe let people whose kids are there stay there. In that school, it wasn’t that many people who actually worked there though. It is mostly people who work somewhere else. What if they start cutting off boundary exceptions and people who do work in these schools can’t get them because other people are dropping their kids off? That is another reason it needs reviewing.

  6. hank says

    There are many people working in school cafeterias, offices and as aides just for the boundary exception. It has nothing to do with child care necessities. I personally know several people who have done this so their children would not have to go to, God Forbid, to Edgewood Middle School. My son is having a great year there, so I say let them go. But before the school’s dynamic turnaround, I looked into the possibility of a boundary exception, was told there was no way on just the basis of academic achievement, that he would receive a boundary exception to another school. I understand the teachers being allowed the exception, but question the automatic exception for other employees.

  7. Mommie Dearest says

    I think boundary exceptions should be disallowed for any reason other than medical. Look at the charts above under reasons for requesting a boundary exception and see how many fall under the category “other”. It’s too bad that your child’s education clashes with your work schedule. Deal with it like I did instead of boo hooing to the Bd of Ed. I didn’t believe that the elementary school that my children attended was doing too much for them in the way of education. I didn’t crybaby–I moved. And obviously the HCPS personnel are abusing the system and mucking it up for everyone who truly needs the exception. There is a HCPS cafeteria employee who works at a school in one school district, lives in Edgewood, yet her child attends Patterson Mill. What is the reason for the exception? The child isn’t going to school where she lives or where her parent works, she is attending the school preferred by her parent. But isn’t Patterson Mill overcrowded? I’m sure this falls under the “other” category and is blatant misuse. But if the Bd of Ed works like the other county agencies, this practice won’t be stopped–it will be the person who truly has a need who gets trod on again due to the selfishness of the parents and the ignorance of the Bd of Ed.

  8. Tracey says

    I think if I am willing to provide transportation to and from school then as a tax paying citizen, I should be able to send my child to any public school I choose. If my child is a honor student who stays out of trouble why shouldn’t I have that priviledge? Several years ago I applied for a boundary exception for daycare reasons, it was denied stating that the school I was requesting it for was above capacity.However, several parents at the daycare I was employed at were getting their boundary exceptions granted at the very same school….they were HCPS employees.In the end I got my boundary exception….I kept making phone calls and writing letters. It really should not have been so difficult.

  9. Phil Dirt says

    It seems to me that if boundary exceptions are offered to HCPS employees as a benefit, they should only be approved for sending their children to the school at which they work, the nearest feeder/feedee (nice word, eh?) school to the one at which they work, or for legitimate child care issues. Someone who lives in Town X and works at Town Y High has no right to have their child at Town Z Elementary simply because they want their child to go there.

    • Not from Here says

      That logic only works for boundary exceptions based on child-care. Using your reasoning, Phil dirt, no middle or high school exceptions would be needed because I think kids can be home by themselves at age ten.

      Boundary exceptions are given for all kinds of reasons and I think that the reason listed on the HCPS form is accurate about half the time. I knew of someone who got a boundary exception to Bel Air because the new Patterson Mill building had too many chemicals coming off all of the new products in the school, yet that same student was fine when the new Bel Air High was opened.