It’s that time of year again.Prince George’s County students are going back to school and school officials say they are excited about the beginning of the school year. “We’ve done a lot of preparation this summer and I think there’s a lot of energy and excitement from our staff,” said Dr. Kevin Maxwell, chief executive […]
It’s that time of year again.
Prince George’s County students are going back to school and school officials say they are excited about the beginning of the school year.
“We’ve done a lot of preparation this summer and I think there’s a lot of energy and excitement from our staff,” said Dr. Kevin Maxwell, chief executive officer of Prince George’s County Public Schools. “We have new principals who have come in and replaced those who are retired and gotten promotions. They are all really excited. I’ve been to a few places talking to parents and staff members and they all seem excited.”
Walter Reap comes to PGCPS from Anne Arundel County Public Schools where Maxwell used to be the superintendent, and said he is ready for the new school year as principal of the brand new Edward M. Felegy Elementary School in Hyattsville.
“My plans for the first year are to develop a school culture around learning with three areas of focus: academic achievement, defining our creative and visual performing arts and then also to establish a learning community for our students, staff and our community,” said Reap.
Reap said he plans to reach out to parents and get them involved with their child’s education. He is serious about this to the point where he’s placed the parent outreach room only a few steps into the front entrance lobby.
“It means our parents who come in will have the opportunity to interface with someone, volunteer and prepare materials,” said Reap. “They’ll have the chance to be greeted as soon as they walk in.”
Maxwell has hired Sheila Jackson to spearhead a movement for more parent and community outreach this school year for PGCPS.
“They’re going to focus on doing some additional training for parents, outreach for parents,” Maxwell said. “We have 30 or 31 new community outreach assistants. So we think that will help with all of our parents.”
This year, there are also changes to school policy regarding the use of cell phones during school hours. New programs are also in the works: Spanish immersion programs at Cesar Chavez, Phyllis E. Williams and Overlook Elementary Schools.
“We’ve added additional seating capacity to the French immersion programs, the Montessori programs, the talented and gifted programs and we’ve expanded the International Baccalaureate program to add primary year programs at John Hanson French Immersion school and Melwood Elementary School,” Maxwell said.
In the wake of the Newtown school shootings in December 2012, there are changes in place to help make schools safer.
“We’ve been hardening our entrances,” Maxwell said. “So after kids arrive in the morningthey’re locked in. We’ve been installing cameras that can be seen from the front office,” said Maxwell. “You have to ring a buzzer to be admitted to the school. They can’t just walk in. It’s not a wide open campus anymore and when people come into the office, they’re scanning drivers’ licenses. If they’re on a watch list for any number of things, then the computer notifies the personnel and the police are summoned. So that’s in place and the third thing is that we’re fencing in the areas around portable classroom buildings so that they’re not wide open either.”
Maxwell said the school system continues to implement the common core curriculum, a curriculum implemented statewide two years ago to help student achievement.
“Common core is going to be good for student achievement in the long run in this country,” said Maxwell. “But it’s going to take a little while because it is a more rigorous curriculum. It is going to take us a little bit more time to get to where we’re ultimately going to be. But I do think it is a very positive development.”
Julie Rice, a kindergarten teacher from Edward M. Felegy Elementary School said she thinks common core, which was not received well at first by some teachers when it first became the mandatory, may be good for the students and is looking forward to continuing to use it to teach.
“I think it’s always good to look at some different ideas for children within the academic world,” she said. “It’s a start.”