UPPER MARLBORO – While Prince George’s County Public Schools works toward addressing overcrowding in Northern County, residents of the Fairwood community in Bowie think the school system should take a deeper look at their request. Last week, the Prince George’s County Board of Education held a public hearing on the capital improvements plan for fiscal […]
UPPER MARLBORO – While Prince George’s County Public Schools works toward addressing overcrowding in Northern County, residents of the Fairwood community in Bowie think the school system should take a deeper look at their request.
Last week, the Prince George’s County Board of Education held a public hearing on the capital improvements plan for fiscal year 2018, and while some of the residents came out to ask for upgrades and needed repairs to their school, a large showing from Fairwood showed up to ask for a new elementary school in their neighborhood.
One of those asking for the new school was Aneer Rukh-Kamaa, the president of the board of directors of the Fairwood community.
“Basically, we want you to do everything in your power to continue the progress toward a school in Fairwood,” he said.
Eight residents came out to the public hearing, held on Sept. 14, to speak about Fairwood and their desire for a school they said was promised to them from the beginning. Purvis Barringer said his family moved to the community because of the promised school to be built in the 15 vacant acres nearby, which he said is owned by the school system.
“When we moved into the Fairwood community there were plans, blueprints, that said there was going to be a school. Seven years later, there is no school,” Barringer said. “We put our kids through private school and private school in this area is between $10,000 to $13,000, and that money deserves to go back into the school system.”
Koby Langley reemphasized that point by saying his daughter attends school in Anne Arundel County because the “promise of this new school” was not kept. Barika Smith, another parent in the area, threatened to enroll her children in private school.
“We understood that there was going to be a school put there. We were very excited about it and taking my daughter to Woodmore at a really old facility really broke my heart,” she said. “I believe in public education, but I do have the capability of putting my children in private school. That’s not what I want to do. The land is available, the kids are there and there are many children of kindergarten age, going on to eighth grade, who would benefit from a school put in the Fairwood community.”
However, the school was not promised directly by PGCPS. When the Fairwood developer, Rouse Fairwood Development LP, went before the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) for review, the commission required the developer to donate 15 acres of land along Fairwood Parkway for a potential school, said John White, a spokesperson for PGCPS.
“This ‘donation’ was a condition for the M-NCPPC approval of the community development as a whole. PGCPS staff cannot be certain of what Rouse might have then communicated or promised the community, but land allocation for future school sites is a very typical outcome of the review process in large-scale residential development,” White said.
But several residents pointed out their ask is about more than keeping a promise to the community. The new school, they said, would also help with overcrowding at Glenn Dale Elementary and perhaps put much-needed resources into the community as Woodmore Elementary continues to deteriorate.
“Glenn Dale Elementary is overcrowded. If you don’t believe us, just try driving up there in the morning and you’re going to have to park across the street to get into the facility. It is almost a nightmare if you try to go back for pick up and drop off,” Barringer said.
And even the area’s state representation showed up to support the cause. Del. Erek Barron (D-24), came representing the entire legislative team for the area, and further pushed the cause, saying the school is a priority for the 24th District.
“It’s a priority of the 24th Legislative District and your state representatives, which means that it’s a priority of the state at this point,” Barron said. “This area is over capacity, the facilities are over-utilized and the facilities are just inadequate and just won’t do going into the future.”
Barron said there were numerous studies done on the area that prove his statements and since those studies the area has only grown.
“And nothing has changed since, expect we have more people, more residents, more citizens, more children,” he said. “This should be fast tracked.”
The school system first requested a new elementary school in the area in their fiscal year 2010-2015 capital improvements plan. White said, at the time, enrollment in the area was “projected to exceed the capacity of the existing area schools,” and planning funding was provided.
However, just two years later, the state denied construction funding for the school based on “enrollment issues.”
“The project did appear again in the FY2013-2018 CIP in the beyond 6 year category but was ultimately removed, as both current enrollment and future enrollment projections remained insufficient to obtain full funding,” White said. “The current enrollment dropped with the move of sixth grade to middle school; likewise, the future enrollment projections reflected the marked decline in birth rates experienced during the recession.”
Still, White said PGCPS is in the process of obtaining a contractor to conduct a feasibility study at nearby Woodmore Elementary that would include a study of the potential uses of the Fairwood site. A replacement Woodmore could be sited in Fairwood and could potentially balance enrollment in the area, he said.
“It is highly likely, though not guaranteed, that this feasibility study will justify the full replacement of Woodmore Elementary given its exceedingly poor physical condition. If so, the optimal location for the new/replacement school is at 13250 Fairwood Parkway, noting final site selection requires formal approval by the board of education, White said.
The school system did not give a timeline for the study or any potential development.