Anne Arundel County is working to improve two prime issues: affordable housing and school capacity via a two-part solution.
Counties all over Maryland — and the country — are facing the daunting tasks of addressing the lack of affordable housing and overcrowding in public schools. Anne Arundel County is tackling the issues head-on with a joint solution.
County Executive Steuart Pittman described the county’s approach as a two-part solution:
First is school redistricting, and I commend the current Board of Education for facing up to that fact when previous boards would not. They have put two scenarios for the northern half of the county out for comment, and the Superintendent’s recommendation will go to the Board for consideration next month. Those new districts will take effect in fall of 2024 and put every school in the northern half of the county at or below 100% capacity. The southern half of the county will be redistricted two years later.
Part two is updating our legislation to prevent this problem from recurring, so we created a School APF Workgroup to study how we got ourselves into this situation and what our policy should be in the future. One option was to hold off on closing neighborhoods to development until school utilization is projected to be in the 105%-115% range, as is done in Baltimore, Montgomery, Prince Georges, Howard, Harford, St. Mary’s, Carroll, and Charles counties. Accepting overcrowding, we decided, is the wrong approach. We can do better than that for our students.
On July 3, the Anne Arundel County Council unanimously passed Bill 52-23, putting this proposal into action by doing several things, including:
- establishing a system whereby a feeder area will be closed if a school is projected to surpass 100% capacity and there is no available capacity in an adjacent area;
- requiring that the Anne Arundel County Board of Education share its methodology for projecting school capacity;
- implementing the adjacency policy; and
- adding affordable housing to the existing list of capacity exemptions.
The Capital Gazette reported on the measure:
Under the legislation, the county will be barred from weighing the capacity of a school district when considering certain proposed affordable housing developments, allowing them to be approved even if the schools that serve the area are full or overcrowded.
The bill also aims to fill as many classroom seats as possible. When considering future developments, the bill also will require the county to figure in the capacity of adjacent school districts. This means a development that may have been blocked previously because it was in a school district that is at capacity may now be allowed to move forward if an adjacent school district has room.
County Executive Pittman noted that while this is an important step forward in addressing these issues, more work is to be done:
But more work remains. From there, we will carefully manage county growth in compliance with Plan2040, and we will work with our Board of Education to implement their Facilities Master Plan, thereby producing for our kids a future that is smarter, greener, more equitable, and better educated.