Public education is transforming faster than ever, and the needs and expectations evolve with each school year. School buildings must support the teaching and learning needs of today to best nurture the leaders of tomorrow.
In Prince George’s County Public Schools, many children attend classes in aging facilities. Nearly half of all school buildings are more than 50 years old — the second-oldest school buildings in the state. For decades, families and communities have been promised newer and upgraded facilities — and yet, the situation has gone virtually unchanged, forcing our children to wait.
As county executive and chief executive officer, we knew we had to think outside the box to address some of our dilapidated buildings amid an $8.5 billion school construction backlog to ensure students have the tools needed to succeed. That is why we have fought hard to find an innovative way to build state-of-the-art schools quickly, and in a cost-effective manner.
We were excited to get the legislation passed in Annapolis two years ago, creating the ability to develop a public-private partnership delivery approach, which has allowed Prince George’s County to be a model for school construction across the nation as we build six new schools by summer 2023. We have put a number of safeguards in place to guarantee the schools are built on time. For example, all schools must be completed by July 15, 2023, or the developer will face financial penalties for each day the schools are delayed. Our plan also protects taxpayers from cost overruns. These facilities will be completed sooner than under a traditional plan, bringing new schools that meet the needs of students now. Our partners will be responsible for maintenance, ensuring building conditions meet the highest standards for the next 30 years.
We can assure all county residents that we would not sacrifice the well-being of our existing communities in any way shape or form, and this is certainly the case at the location of our new Southern K-8 Academy. Of particular concern to the community is how this new school might impact stormwater management — a matter we have taken into account from day one. In addition to accelerating the construction of stormwater infrastructure around the site, the plans for the new school not only minimize its impact on the surrounding community but will actually decrease the amount of stormwater leaving the site during the critical period after a storm. Our building infrastructure will contain water on site and gradually release it as opposed to current conditions. This plan has been shared with the community in several forums and we created a video to demonstrate the care and attention placed on this critical issue.
Our children, families and educators have waited decades for these new schools. We are done waiting. We are moving forward with pride to provide every child in this county with a basic expectation of public education: high-quality teaching and learning in modern school buildings.
Alsobrooks is the Prince George’s County Executive. Goldson is the chief executive officer of Prince George’s County Public Schools.