Update: Since this publication of this story on Tuesday, March 8 the school system has announced that the middle school site decisions will not be on the county board of education’s agenda on March 22. Instead, the communications office will further extend the public input time and the board will take up the matter sometime in April. […]
Update: Since this publication of this story on Tuesday, March 8 the school system has announced that the middle school site decisions will not be on the county board of education’s agenda on March 22. Instead, the communications office will further extend the public input time and the board will take up the matter sometime in April.
HYATTSVILLE – Relief may be on the way for over crowded middle schools in northern Prince George’s County as Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) looks for options for two new middle schools.
On March 7 and 8, PGCPS held public hearings to inform the affected communities about the capital improvements programs’ proposals to construct two new middles in the northern part of the county. The proposals will be accounted for in the fiscal years of 2017 through 2022 and, although the plans are in the beginning stages, the county board of education will make a decision on school sites on March 22.
The two schools will be located in the Buck Lodge and Nicholas Orem Middle schools area and the Charles Carroll and William Wirt area and will likely pull from those school’s boundaries after completion, which is not estimated until 2019.
Rupert McCave, a capital improvements officer at PGCPS, said detailed data analysis shows the county will not have enough seats for all of their students in the coming years and will likely be short by more than 3,600 seats.
That data, in combination with the Master Plan Support Project results given to the school system in fall of 2015, has indicated the northern area is in need of new schools, McCave said.
“It’s kind of a hybrid. The Master Plan Support Project looked at existing demographics in terms of the school, what they need, in terms of improvements, in terms of educational programming. This is a separate plan that looked at demographics to say where the need is in terms of enrollment,” he said. “In terms of enrollment needed in the next several years, the project shows we are above 3,600 seats, plus or minus.”
Each of the two new middle schools will house 1,200 students, totaling 2,400 new seats. McCave said there are also plans in the works to renovate and expand William Wirt Middle School, renovate Nicholas Orem and ease overcrowding by moving sixth grade students to middle schools and changing some school boundaries.
Although the board will likely make a decision on the school sites in late March, McCave said he was not sure when boundary hearings and a boundary decision would be made for the two new schools. Since they will not open until 2019, he said there is still much to be decided in the process.
Architects for the project were commissioned last fall and have since been conducting site feasibility analysis. Waldon Studio Architects were tasked with looking at 16 sites throughout the county to possibly place the two new schools. They had to determine which sites were most feasible based on the needs of the schools, including classrooms, a media center, gym, and fields, and the desires for the buildings to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold and net-zero, which means the building would produce the amount of energy it uses in a year.
From the 16 available sites, the group narrowed the choice down to eight, which they ranked from most favorable to least favorable, said Christa Kerrigan, the project manager with Waldon Studio Architects.
Kerrigan said the studio had selected two sites as most favorable for the two middle schools. The first, for the Buck Lodge area, is at Adelphi Road Park on the existing developed Mary Harris Mother Jones Elementary School site, which is already owned by the board of education.
The estimated cost of construction on the site is roughly $71 million.
“This scored really well because it is adjacent already to an existing elementary school. You have utilities there already, you have traffic flow coming in, you have the neighborhood that’s already used to cars coming in, but the drop off times would be staggered,” Kerrigan said. “Also, we have all of the car and buses coming in from the same side.”
Kerrigan said the schools would be able to share fields.
The second site is at Glenridge Park near the existing Glenridge Elementary School and is on Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) land. The estimated cost of this school is $74.4 million. The purchase would also require the school system to provide M-NCPPC with alternative land to replace the land they use.
Kerrigan said the site is preferred because it is around an existing school, has manageable land with plenty of options for storm water management, and the possibility of the proposed Purple Line having a stop nearby.
Only four or five people from the community came out to the hearing on Monday and many of them complained of the lack of communication from PGCPS about the hearings. While the school system did send out a press release about the hearings, and posted information online, parents said they should have received robo-calls or mailers about the hearings.
Francis Deleon has a child at Nicholas Orem Middle School and said she wished more parents knew about the public hearing.
“Most of the parents didn’t show up to the meeting, because we didn’t get a robo-call or any information about the meetings. Basically only two parents showed up today to this meeting and its a shame because we want to know why they are not improving this school,” she said.
Deleon said she thinks the area needs “three more (schools), probably” because of overcrowding and said her preference would go to the Adelphi Road option for the area she lives in.
However, Donna, a resident of the area who withheld her last name, said she thinks putting a school near the Mother Jones elementary school would cause further headaches in the area.
“I’ll be honest with you, I can’t imagine looking at another school with the traffic. To me, it’s already overcrowded as it is and to put a middle school there, that just blows my mind. It’s just too congested as it is,” she said.