UPPER MARLBORO – Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) have been making improvements to the education facilities around the county, however, there is still a lot left to be desired according to some county council members. Sarah Woodhead, director of capital programs for PGCPS, sat down with the council to talk about the school system’s […]
UPPER MARLBORO – Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) have been making improvements to the education facilities around the county, however, there is still a lot left to be desired according to some county council members.
Sarah Woodhead, director of capital programs for PGCPS, sat down with the council to talk about the school system’s master plan support project.
Woodhead said the Master Plan Support Project (MPSP) is a measure of the school system’s long-term capital requirements and modernizations for their buildings while limiting renovations and costs.
“It really looks at them in a holistic way,” Woodhead said. “That’s the $8.5 billion price tag that we talked about last time.”
Woodhead said the recommendations for the MPSP made by studies conducted by a consultant group hired by PGCPS have been posted on the school system’s website and will be presented to the community in a forum setting throughout the fall.
The school system will then take the information from the forums it hosts and make its own recommendations for the preparation of a 20-year “master plan” that will take into account current analysis the school system has been doing and any future discussion and analysis that may need to be done. That will be finalized for the school system in the spring, she said.
“We do a master plan every year,” Woodhead said. “Every year we are required by the state to create a new one or an updated one, but this one is more comprehensive and will take a longer time.”
In the recommendations made, William Wirt Elementary School and Suitland High School are at the top of the list for revitalization or replacement, depending on what PGCPS deems necessary from the recommendations from the hired consultant group.
Should the schools be replaced, they would be rebuilt on the same site. There have been feasibility studies done for William Wirt and the consultant group placed them on the list for “high need” to be addressed. The feasibility study on Suitland High School has not been completed yet.
“Suitland High School has been put at the top of the recommendations for modernization,” Woodhead said. “We would look at how to renovate the campus to bring it up to new standards.”
PGCPS has requested $5 million in funding from the county for both the Wirt and Suitland renovations. The state would not participate in renovating these projects, she said.
The study also recommended that the county add two new high schools in the northern part of the county where schools are 116 percent over capacity. Woodhead said PGCPS is currently considering adding just one new high school.
Despite the good intentions of building a new high school to reduce capacity concerns, Councilman Derrick Leon Davis said transportation needs to be considered before making any decisions about building a new school.
“That certainly takes into consideration our growth and land use decisions. The last piece that we often have to deal with is transportation boundaries,” Davis said.
Woodhead said transportation is currently being considered, but there have been no concrete decisions made on building the schools at the moment.
Councilwoman Dannielle Glaros asked if, rather than building a new school totally, there could be any new seats for students at High Point High School, which is on schedule for renovations.
“I was a little surprised to see this (proposed high school) above the new northern area middle schools,” Glaros said. “There’s a little bit of a domino effect here.”
Woodhead said High Point would be accepted into the capital improvements plan as a separate project. There will be additional seats added in order to increase capacity. There will be about 1,700 new seats added.
Glaros said seeing the county’s contributions to the budget in the plan will be helpful to the council moving forward. Capital improvements were heavily discussed during the budget process, so seeing what is needed from the county now helps them plan ahead for the future.
The county will be funding $232,396,566 in capital improvements for fiscal year 2016, according to Woodhead. That is a $1.6 million difference from what was previously presented by the school board in August earlier this year.
The capital improvement budget has been under a microscope of county residents and citizens since the county’s budget discussions were finalized earlier this year. The discussion over the capital budget spanned from the 2017 school year to 2022.
“The majority of this work is county funded,” Woodhead said. “We’ve set a high bar and we’re very pleased with our accomplishments.”
Councilwoman Deni Taveras said the council may want to consider entering a bond bill into the state legislation to request state help on some capital improvement projects they are not currently slated to provide aid for.
While the county is slated to provide just over $230 million, the state is expected to provide just $71 million during fiscal year 2016.
“Now’s the time to have that conversation to see if that is the direction that we’re going in,” Taveras said. “I understand the political sensitivity at this time, but I think the request should be made.”