Howard County schools, bracing for an expected surge in enrollment, took the first step tonight in a delicate balancing act designed to relieve crowding in county schools by redrawing school boundaries.

In a report to the five-member school board, Maurice Kalin, chairman of a board committee that studied school redistricting, recommended transferring 550 students among three schools next year to ease crowding at Hammond High School in the fast-growing southeastern part of the county.

The report recommended against any reassignments next year at county elementary or middle schools, but cautioned that the board would have to begin addressing crowding in elementary schools by 1986.

Public school enrollment nationally has been declining for a number of years. But as children of the 1950s' baby boom have children of their own, enrollment is expected to begin rising, school officials report.

Such a trend already is evident in Howard and Montgomery counties, as well as in other Washington area jurisdictions. Enrollments peaked here in 1978, and then declined steadily until this year.

In 1978, there were 1,528 births in Howard County; last year there were 2,030, Kalin said. As a result, enrollment at the elementary level in Howard is projected to increase by 24 percent -- or 1,800 students -- by 1989.

The surge will begin affecting county middle schools in 1991 and high schools in 1994, according to the report.

Complicating the expected enrollment increase is a geographical imbalance. About 1,000 of the new elementary students will live in the southeastern part of the county, while primary schools in the fast-maturing Columbia area will be under-enrolled by as many as 800 students by the end of the decade, according to Kalin.

The board took no action last night, but scheduled a work session Jan. 29 and set a public hearing for Feb. 13.

More than 850 county residents attended five preliminary hearings on proposed school boundary changes, and several parents expressed concern about transferring children to counter crowding.