UPPER MARLBORO – Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) accomplished many projects over the summer, but as far as the Prince George’s County Board of Education and the county community is concerned, more needs to be done. The board met for the second time this school year, as an entire board, on Thursday, Sept. 24 […]
UPPER MARLBORO – Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) accomplished many projects over the summer, but as far as the Prince George’s County Board of Education and the county community is concerned, more needs to be done.
The board met for the second time this school year, as an entire board, on Thursday, Sept. 24 and discussed, among other things, the future plan for the school system and the need for increased maintenance across the county.
Inequity, a long reoccurring theme of discussion on the board, reared its head once again as the board talked about the maintenance plan and the perceived disparity of service in the southern region of the county.
Board member Edward Burroughs III said, through conversations with building maintenance workers, he has heard schools in the northern region of the county have their work orders completed quicker than those in the southern portion. He said, while he is happy schools such as Gwynn Park and Dr. Henry A. Wise high schools received new turf and other schools received updated playgrounds, there is still much to accomplish.
“I’m happy that things are going well in District 9 on that front, but I think there are still some concerns when it comes to north and south and work order timeliness,” Burroughs said.
Burroughs said he is disappointed simple work orders, which were requested months ago, are still not fulfilled.
“I do have a concern. It seems like work orders for simple projects are not being completed in a timely fashion,” Burroughs said. “I know one school just requested paint to paint a goal post, like six months ago.”
Carl Belcher, the director of supporting services for PGCPS, said a main component of the new maintenance plan is the intent to “hire employees whose work hours will be other than the core work hours,” as stated in the comprehensive maintenance plan. Through contract negotiations with the Local 2250, this hiring process will allow the school system to implement the “second shift.” The second shift will, in turn, be able to provide service to buildings after school hours, cutting “down time for building.”
“There are issues with our staffing,” Belcher said. “If you recall, we had in the (fiscal year) 2016 operating budget the 40 (full-time equivalents) for our second shift. I couldn’t contain myself in anticipation of that, that will go a long way to address a lot of our issues.”
Belcher said one main factor in response time to work order requests is the location of the maintenance shop in Upper Marlboro. He said the travel time to some schools in the south is much greater than to other locations.
“In terms of priorities, we do have those work order requests that are based upon health safety and welfare of our building occupants,” he said. “We then prioritize them by our special schools, elementary schools, middle schools and high schools. Our goal is to keep everyone healthy safe and we stand by those priorities.”
Belcher said work orders such as paint and other “curb appeal” requests are low on the priority list.
Board Chair Segun Eubanks said the concept of there being unfairness is concerning and asked the supporting services department to look at the data they have to see if there is evidence of inequality.
Belcher said he did not believe there is any evidence to support claim.
In rebuttal to remarks made by board member Burroughs, member Lupi Quinteros-Grady said she does not think any one section of the county is ignored, but rather the county as a whole is in desperate need of attention.
“If you were to speak about the north, or the north gets quicker response, that’s the not the case if I speak to different people at those schools,” Grady said.
Grady said the entire system is in a ‘crisis,’ because it’s not just a one-school problem, a lot of the schools are old.
“The north side is just bursting at the seams and I don’t care what school you go to, you will see it. You will see them use every single space. It could be what used to be a teachers lounge – they no longer have that. It’s turned into a classroom,” she said. “So when we’re talking about safety, when we’re talking about priorities, I just say equity? Well I just encourage you to visit the north side as well.”