UPPER MARLBORO — The Prince George’s County Public Schools Board of Education (BOE) held a Capital Improvement Program (CIP) public hearing on Thursday, Sept. 13 for residents to share their thoughts on priorities for school improvements, renovations and new construction.
Many of the concerns brought up during the hearing had to do with problems with overcrowding and lack of safe facilities in the northern part of the county.
Hyattsville Elementary and Middle School were areas of great concern as renovations to the schools keep getting pushed back. According to Meredith Muth, who has children in PGCPS, the elementary school was originally supposed to be completed in 2021 but is now not even supposed to start until 2024.
At 140 percent capacity, five temporary buildings and an inadequate cafeteria, the building is “not sustainable,” said Lee Cain who also has a child at Hyattsville Elementary School. This school and others are experiencing similar problems around the Route 1 corridor needing to be addressed.
Calling for transparency from the BOE, Muth and Cain are part of a subcommittee started by the Hyattsville Education Advisory Committee to advocate for the improvement of Hyattsville schools and bring a discussion to the situation of not having sufficient land available to build the new schools planned in the CIP.
The subcommittee will focus on capital improvements for all schools and provide a platform where people can advocate and discuss together and ensure there is accountability and transparency in the process.
“It’s a huge, huge problem because you have developers taking up what’s left of the open space and there is not much left to begin with, and they’re adding more students to our school system,” Muth said. “It’s been a very controversial issue in the city, and I’m sure in other cities too. We’re building communities but we’re not building schools or any resources to support them.”
With immense overcrowding in other schools such as High Point High School, District 2 County Councilmember Deni Taveras, who was present at the hearing, said the situation is “out of control.”
“We are in a situation that is dire. We are in crisis mode. We cannot fit another temporary trailer in any of our schools and it’s just at untamable levels and we need to address that head-on.”
Taveras urged the BOE to expedite the construction of the Langley Park International School, renovate the Hyattsville schools and advocate for an alternative site for the Adelphi Middle School.
Those at the meeting were opposed to the current proposed site of Adelphi Middle School due to environmental concerns in the area such as streams, existing storm water management ponds and wetlands.
There have already been flooding issues at Mary Harris Mother Jones Elementary School and in the surrounding area, and the community is concerned that building the middle school here would lead to unnecessary repair expenses in the future.
“We’re looking at an alternative site that meets the needs of the community and the needs of the overcrowding students in that area,” Taveras said. “So we’re looking at Adelphi Elementary as that alternative site, and while there still needs to be a plan that needs to be done to say that that will be a viable site, we’re all pushing for that.”
International High School at Langley Park Principal Carlos Beato and a number of parents and teachers from there and from Langley Park Elementary School came to ask the BOE to expedite renovation of the school. According to Beato, there have already been a lot of accomplishments made at the International High School but in order to continue to improve, the school needs the appropriate facilities.
“Such robust programming requires the appropriate facilities to be able to serve the needs of our students,” he said. “Most of them come from neighborhoods where there has been a continuous cycle of poverty, lack of education and healthcare…By opening our school, and others in the north, we will be tackling this issue head-on and most importantly allowing these very students to know that we care about them.”
Zandra Brown, a teacher at Langley Park Elementary School, stressed the importance of the high school not only to the population of students to meet their needs but the asset it would be to the nearby elementary school and community center.
“One of the things we wanted to be sure of is that the high school was placed in such a way on the site that it will be a part of the community and the resources we have with the elementary school and the community center but still be itself in terms of being a high school,” she said.
Among the testimonies of the hearing was Lindsay Wright, one of several former PGCPS students who expressed the impact that having inadequate school facilities can have on the students. Wright called it “the worst failure on behalf of the students.”
“Not having the student-teacher ratio that allows teachers to dedicate enough time students is not a good thing to hear,” she said. “It doesn’t feel good because it can be the basis of what can define students futures and it’s just unfortunate that sometimes based on where you are or what school you attend that can sometimes be more of a challenge for some students.”
BOE Chair Segun Eubanks said it’s a difficult situation when so many schools need work done and the population of the county is distributed in a way that they cannot control.
“What tends to happen is we know we have a $2 billion CIP maintenance backlog that we need,” he said. “We never get anywhere near what we need. The questions become when we get 30 percent of what we need, how do we use that money expeditiously based on those priorities. That’s the challenge we face.”
The information presented at this public hearing will be used to develop the final CIP which will be presented to the BOE for approval during the Sept. 18 meeting.