UPPER MARLBORO — The Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) Board of Education met to listen to concerns from the public as well as discuss standardized testing results, the fiscal year 2020 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and other improvements to be made to the school system on Tuesday, Sept. 18.
Oxon Hill High School PTSA President Tanya Sweat, who spoke at the last meeting on Sept. 13, returned to urge the Board of Education (BOE) to continue the renovation of Oxon Hill that was reported as complete in 2013.
According to Sweat, the original plan was for the school to hold a population of 1,500 students but the current building can only hold 1,200 even though there are 1,468 students enrolled.
Additionally, other pieces of the project were removed because of financial shortages that arose during construction, the stadium lights located on the football field were not installed and there is standing water and a missing scoreboard on the softball field.
“Earlier this year the Department of Capital Improvement notified the school that they intended to install the stadium lights on the football field in June,” Sweat said. “However, we understand that due to a $300,000 underestimation cost, the work has not yet started.”
Other schools in the area have dealt with similar issues such as Accokeek Academy, which underwent a multi-year remodel and was just recently finished, has an outdoor classroom that is not completed.
John Straub from the Adelphi Hills Community Association came to the meeting to address the recommended alternate site plan for Adelphi Middle School, another issue that was brought up during the last meeting. Straub said the community had suffered flooding since the construction of Mary Harris Mother Jones Elementary School and that building the school at a different location would prevent future problems.
Michael Cravits also returned from the last meeting to request that the board consider building an auditorium for Benjamin D. Foulois Creative and Performing Arts Academy.
His point was addressed later in the meeting where the BOE said a performing arts school should be given an adequate facility beforehand, but until an auditorium is put in the school, they must think of creative solutions.
“It doesn’t mean that we can’t have a program in a facility without having an auditorium,” Interim CEO Monica Goldson said. “What we have to do is think of creative ways that students can do their experiences in surrounding schools that do have an auditorium and make sure that they get the first choice on those use of facilities.”
The BOE then discussed the 2017-2018 school year results of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) standardized test. The state defines proficiency on the test as a score of four or five which indicates that students are on track for college readiness.
They looked at the percentage of those performing at a level four or higher in English Language Arts and Mathematics in grades three through eight, grade 10 and grade 11, where students performed under the state standard for each subject, some grades more than others.
Over a three-year trend, most scores increased by a small percent except 10th grade English and mathematics which declined.
Strategies to increase test scores include informal observation of classrooms, mandatory math benchmarks, literacy and numeracy coaches and emphasis on ESOL and special education students.
However, the school system will be moving away from the PARCC test starting next school year.
On the new test, teaching standards and content will be the same, and the content will be similar but the new test will be taken on a computer.
“This will be the last year for PARRC,” Goldson said. “Next year will be a pilot year and the next year will be full implementation of the Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program.”
As a replacement of PARCC for English 11 and Algebra II, they will offer an SAT day in the spring where will be able to take the SAT in the spring during the school day.
The discussion on the CIP addressed priorities in school modernizations. Ten schools were listed as priority including William Wirt Middle School, Glenridge Area Middle School and Adelphi Middle School.
To address overcrowding, the CIP includes the addition of 2,750 middle school seats throughout the county, 2,500 high school seats and 800 elementary school seats. However, this will not be enough due to the school board being behind in the master plan.
“In our approved FY 2017 Educational Facilities Master Plan, we have in it two new middle schools for the northern area of the county, one new elementary school, and one new high school,” Goldson said. “So if we were on pace with our recommendations in the FY 17 Educational Facilities Master Plan, we would be able to, but because we are behind regarding implementation of it, it still won’t be enough seats.”
Additionally, there was a concern raised by District 8 Board Member Edward Burroughs III and District 7 Member K. Alexander Wallace about the rationale behind spending over $31 million to renovate The William S. Schmidt Center’s heating and cooling facilities over many schools that have those problems.
“What I’m struggling with is that we have students sitting in class with heating and air issues so if we’re going to spend $31 million I would rather fix all of the heating and cooling issues before upgrading Camp Schmidt,” Burroughs said. “We also have students literally in rooms of 100 degrees, 90 degrees, 80 degrees and they are unable to learn there. They are there every single day. We have teachers who are reportedly getting sick because of the problems in their building. I think the priority should be fixing places where there are health and safety issues.”
Of other matters discussed, the BOE approved various recognitions throughout October such as Red Ribbon Week, National Bullying Prevention Month and International Conflict Resolution Day as well as specifications for new buildings for Glenridge Area Middle School, William Wirt Middle School and the International High School at Langley Park.