UPPER MARLBORO – Twice during the budget public hearing process, a student from Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) has come before the board of education speaking only in their second language. And while some on the board did not immediately understand the words spoken in Spanish, their families made their message clear: continue funding […]
UPPER MARLBORO – Twice during the budget public hearing process, a student from Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) has come before the board of education speaking only in their second language.
And while some on the board did not immediately understand the words spoken in Spanish, their families made their message clear: continue funding language immersion.
During the past three weeks, the Prince George’s County Board of Education and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Maxwell held a series of work sessions and public hearings on the proposed school budget at local schools. The final meeting was held on Feb. 7 at Oxon Hill High School.
“We have taken these budget hearings out of the confines of the Sasscer building in Upper Marlboro and brought them out into the community where we want to be sure we can engage as many people as possible,” Board Chair Segun Eubanks said.
During the past three meetings, parents, students and community residents from across the county came out to voice their concerns, desires and opinions about the budget. Some residents asked for more funds for art teachers. Others advocated for more support for special education teachers or more money for keeping up with maintenance requests.
At the Feb. 7 meeting, and through previous meetings, students and families came out to support language immersion programs initiated in PGCPS schools and asked for more funds to continue the programs into middle and high school.
Isabella Young, a student at Phyllis E. Williams Spanish Immersion, spoke to the board in Spanish to advocate for her program.
“I like my school because I learn to speak, read and write in Spanish,” she said. “Please expand the Spanish Immersion program to highest level.”
Young’s father Marquis said he is “extremely proud” of the progress his daughter has made during her time in the immersion program and said he wants to propel the program forward.
“I’m willing to do the work as a parent and as one of the members of the PTO at Phyllis E. Williams Spanish Immersion,” he said. “I think you guys can see the fruit that has been produced from this program. With anything with progress as you’re moving forward, I think you are able to identify that there’s a point where there’s a large momentum and I think this is that point.”
Marquis said he doesn’t want the school system to lose the momentum it has gained in the immersion programs, whether Spanish, French or the newly-instated Mandarin.
Gina Bowler, the parent of two children at Overlook Spanish Immersion, is the co-founder of My Bilingual Child and said she has advocated for language immersion program expansion since 2012.
Bowler was accompanied by a number of parents from Overlook who also wanted to advocate for expansion of the programs.
“At Overlook, we know the importance of the Spanish Immersion program. Our students are receiving a world-class education and the advantages that come with multi-lingual proficiency and multi-cultural competency,” she said.
The program gives students a chance to be competitive in the workplace when they move on from PGCPS, and with the county being so close to Washington, D.C, it gives them an edge when wanting to work in diplomacy or cultural centers.
Kent Roberson, a member of the parent teacher organization from Maya Angelou French Immersion, said he was happy to see money in the PGCPS budget to expand the immersion programs across the county, but had serious concerns about space issues for expansion at Maya Angelou.
“It’s actually at capacity as we speak,” he said. “Our issue is, if we expand it, are we creating the space for it or just letting more children in? How are you going to create the space for it?”
Roberson said he also wants to see the vision for the immersion program. PGCPS has said the immersion program will expand with the class that began the program, but as those students age, Roberson wants to know how immersion middle and high schools will work.
He specifically asked if PGCPS will designate an immersion high school where all languages are studied or if there will be separate high schools, much like the classes held at Central High School.
PGCPS has not released an extended plan for expansion of the immersion schools, but allocated approximately $4.7 million in the fiscal year 2018 budget for the expansion of their immersion programs and the International Schools.
That expansion includes 11 new Spanish classrooms for 275 students, two new French classrooms for 50 additional students, two new Mandarin classrooms for 50 students and adding year three to the two International High Schools.
The board will adopt a budget to send to the county executive at their regularly scheduled Feb. 23 meeting.