Sunday, February 23, 2014

Prince George's County Public Schools Board of Education Prepares to Vote on Boundary Changes

The Prince George’s County Public Schools’ operating budget has proposed program and boundary changes for the upcoming school year. Prince George’s County Chief Executive Kevin Maxwell is recommending:

·      The creation of a New Hyattsville Area Elementary School
·       Boundary changes and grade adjustment for Barack Obama Elementary School
·      The assignment of sixth graders to middle school
·      The creation of three Spanish immersion programs

Parents voiced their opinions to the board at a public hearing in Upper Marlboro on Feb. 18.

Parents are "Furious" Over Proposed Changes

Kim Arrington, a parent of a child who would have to leave Perrywood Elementary School in Largo, described her feelings about the changes as “concerned, anxiety, and a little furious.” Arrington began researching the programs of Perrywood when her son was in preschool, and made plans with the assumption that her son would be at that school.

Here are some of the findings in the proposal:

·      The New Hyattsville Area Elementary School would have a creative and performing arts theme
·      Barack Obama Elementary sixth graders would be moved to James Madison Middle School
·      The three sites of the Spanish immersion program would be Cesar Chavez Elementary, Phyllis E. Williams Elementary, and Overlook Elementary
·      Access to the immersion program would be through a lottery system

The board of education has been listening to concerned parents, and has agreed to delay moving Barack Obama sixth graders to middle school until the 2015-2016 school year. Schools that would move sixth graders to middle school in the 2014-2015 year are Chillum Elementary, Mary Harris Mother Jones Elementary, Mattaponi Elementary, and Thomas Stone Elementary.

Alicia Nelson, an employee in the special education department at Cesar Chavez for 14 years, cannot remember so much controversy over a boundary change. “I just wish they didn’t do anything to our school. Just leave it the way it is…because what we have, it works,” Nelson said.

However, Nelson is in favor of the Spanish immersion program.  “I love it. All of this, to me, is the best thing ever, because when you look at our environment, when you look at us really today, Spanish is a second language,” Nelson said.

Reactions to the Proposal are Positive and Negative

Johndel Jones-Brown, director of pupil accounting and school boundaries, worked with his staff to develop the proposals. He met with the community while forming them. He said reactions to the proposal have been positive and negative. “Typically we hear more from people who are dissatisfied,” said Jones-Brown.

Not surprisingly, the majority of the speakers at the public hearing were on the negative side. “How would you feel if you were told your child’s school was being improved, but they would have to go to another school for the improvements to take place,” said Carlos Hernandez to The Washington Post. His son goes to Cesar Chavez.

This proposal is not the only one that has created waves in recent years. In 2009, the county closed eight schools and advanced boundary changes for 62 others, affecting more than 13,000 students, according to The Washington Post.

Overcrowding and New Teachers are Addressed in the Proposal

Some schools in Prince George’s County are filled to overcapacity. For example, Rosa L. Parks Elementary has 952 enrolled, putting the school 202 students over the target of 750. If the New Hyattsville Area Elementary School is approved, then it is projected that the number of students at Rosa Parks will drop to 594 students.

At Carole Highlands Elementary, the target number of students enrolled is 535. Currently, 746 attend the school. With the addition of the New Hyattsville Elementary School, enrollment is projected to drop to 594 students. The New Hyattsville Area Elementary School would include the neighborhoods of Queens Chapel Manor and portions of Toledo Terrace.

In the proposal, four schools are projected to go from overcapacity to having open seats. Jones-Brown said that the average class size would not be affected by the boundary changes.

In addition, new teachers would be hired for the Spanish immersion program, according to Jones-Brown. During the first year, it is expected that 225 seats will be filled. If the average class size is 25, then that would equate to 9 new faculty hires. There would also be program coordinators at each of the three sites. Students currently attending the sites would be phased out.

The board will vote on the recommendations Feb. 25.

Photo Credit: Adam Kuhn

No comments:

Post a Comment