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Policy 6000 – Site Selection and Acquisition

The purpose of this policy is to direct the process of obtaining property for school system use.

Policy Document

I. Policy Statement

School facilities occupy a prominent place in the community. The selection of a school site or other property for school system use should enhance the education facility, reflect the community use of schools, and recognize the impact of the facility on the surrounding neighborhood. Size, location, health and safety issues, topography, and aesthetics will be considered to ensure timely construction of appropriate facilities.

II. Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to direct the process of obtaining property for school system use.

III. Definitions

  1. Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC) – A committee established under the Maryland Board of Public Works in accordance with Section 5-302 of the Education Article. The committee is chaired by the State Superintendent of Schools or the Superintendent’s designee, and is responsible for the review/approval of any site acquisition.

  2. Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment – An assessment typically conducted during real estate transactions which is designed to determine if existing or potential environmental liabilities exist at a property. The assessment includes, but is not limited to, a review of previous use, studies of local groundwater and surface water conditions, a site inspection, interviews, and findings.

  3. Site Review Committee – An interagency committee responsible for advising the Superintendent and Board of Education on the feasibility of school site development and collaborating to ensure county approval of a site acquisition, which is an IAC requirement. The committee is composed of representatives of the Howard County Public School System, the Howard County Department of Public Works, and the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning.

IV. Standards

  1. Determination of Need

    The need for a site is determined by numerous factors, including, but not limited to, overcrowding of existing buildings, projected enrollment, observed and anticipated increase in development in this and neighboring counties, census data relating to size of families, and changes in facility needs to keep pace with program or system requirements. Trends in present and future availability and price of land and infrastructure will be used to determine the optimum time for acquiring sites at the least cost to the taxpayers.

  2. Considerations for School Sites

    The process for selecting new school sites should consider the following:

    1. Sufficient and appropriate acreage to provide the anticipated educational program as well as parking, playing fields, and accommodations for community use. The Superintendent will recommend guidelines for the acreage of school sites of each organizational level.

    2. Restrictions on the location of school service areas such as neighborhood boundaries and the presence of reasonably well-defined geographic barriers which constitute impractical or hazardous crossing conditions, such as major highways, railroad tracks, large bodies of water, etc.

    3. The prescribed limits which a child is expected to walk to school, if walking is desirable, beyond which transportation must be provided

    4. The desirability of maintaining sufficient flexibility in site location to allow for population migration and/or possible changes in future educational programs or staffing requirements

    5. Economic considerations in developing a pattern of school facilities which will result in the greatest degree of facility utilization while providing optimum learning environments.

  3. Location of Sites

    1. Selection of proposed sites is to be based upon relevant regulations to ensure proper location and maximum utilization of the facility. Applicable guidance and regulations include, but are not limited to, the Comprehensive School Facilities Master Plan, the County General Plan, and the Comprehensive Zoning Plan as well as regulations pertaining to subdivision, roads, wetlands, and stormwater management.

    2. School sites should be as central as possible to the ultimate area to be served by the school in order to minimize long-range transportation requirements, reduce the need for some children to walk disproportionate or long distances, and enhance the ability of the greatest number of children to participate in after-school activities.

    3. Location of school sites near industrial or employment complexes should be avoided in order to minimize traffic hazards, disturbing noises, odors, smoke, and fumes. School sites planned for a part of a mixed use community may be considered.

    4. Consideration should be given to acquiring property jointly with the Department of Recreation and Parks or locating the site near public parks or recreation areas.

    5. All school sites should have frontage on or egress to a public road or street to obtain a reasonable means of vehicular egress.

  4. Physical Properties of Sites

    The site must be suitable for the economical construction of the proposed facility.

    1. A Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment must be conducted prior to acquisition to determine suitability. Supplemental analyses may be conducted as necessary or appropriate.

    2. Safe pedestrian and vehicular access should be reasonably attainable.

    3. The shape of a school site should be suitable for school construction and use. Elongated and extreme shapes should be avoided.

    4. The topography of the site should facilitate proper drainage and allow for economical grading costs at the time the site is developed.

    5. Consideration should be given as to whether public water and sewer are available, and if not, whether onsite water and sewer service meeting regulatory requirements are reasonably attainable.

  5. Approval of Sites

    1. Procedures for the identification and acquisition of sites must comply with state and local laws and regulations, include the following:

      1. Preliminary consultation with the Board in closed session

      2. Consideration and recommendations by the Site Review Committee

      3. Public hearings

      4. Any necessary approval from the IAC and State Superintendent for the acquisition and/or disposition of real property.

    2. When authorized by the Board, the site may be acquired.

V. Compliance

  1. The Superintendent is responsible for recommending properties for acquisition to the Board.

  2. The Superintendent/designee is responsible for directing staff on all matters relating to site acquisition.

VI. Delegation of Authority

The Superintendent is authorized to develop procedures to implement this policy.

VII. References

  • The Annotated Code of Maryland, Education Article, Sections 4-115, 116, 118, 119; Sections 5-301, 302

  • Howard County Subdivision and Land Development Regulations

  • Howard County Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance

  • Howard County Zoning Regulations

C. Other

  • Maryland Public School Construction Program Administrative Procedures Guide

  • Howard County General Plan

VIII. History

ADOPTED: September 10, 1969

REVIEWED: July 1, 2014


REVISED: October 12, 1989, March 13, 2008

EFFECTIVE: July 1, 2008