Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III tours the new Fairmount Heights High School in Hyattsville on Sept. 6, the first day of school. (Lateef Mangum/The Washington Informer)
Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III tours the new Fairmount Heights High School in Hyattsville on Sept. 6, the first day of school. (Lateef Mangum/The Washington Informer)

Prince George’s County Public School officials, students and parents beamed with excitement last week to show off a renovated elementary school, announcements of a scholar’s program and future credentials in health and hospitality.

One of the major highlights from the first day of school Sept. 6 featured a new $93.7 million Fairmount Heights High School in Hyattsville. The state-of-art structure and campus has a media center, outdoor basketball and tennis courts and a green house and vegetation on the roof for students to learn environmental science.

“This is unbelievable,” said Romeo Carr, a 17-year-old senior. “I started out as a freshman at the old school. This is a huge, college-looking place. It’s amazing.”

Lynora Hall of Landover, whose son, Kevin Hall, will graduate from Fairmount Heights next year, called the new digs “gorgeous.”

“We walked around the campus to get a good look at it,” she said. “I’m more excited than he is. … This is his last high school year and also preparing for college. We’re excited to move forward.”

The 132,000-student system, which is the state’s second-largest, launched a transportation phone bank this school year at 301-817-0525. Parents can check on a child’s bus route Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Also, a new app called Bb District by Blackboard allows parents to keep track of students’ class and homework assignments, school lunch balances and grades. It can be found on the Google Play store and the Apple app store.

Despite the excitement and new initiatives, the school system continues to face some upcoming decisions that could affect inside and outside the classrooms.

The state Department of Education announced last month Alvarez & Marsal Public Sector Services of Northwest will investigate grade inflation allegations, with a final report to be delivered by Oct. 31.

State Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-District 26) of Accokeek leads discussions on recommendations to revamp the school system, such as changing the procedure for selecting school board members. All the recommendations would be written as proposed legislation when the Maryland General Assembly convenes in January.

Prince George’s officials remain confident the school system will continue to strive.

“The teachers, principals and the parents … have made our system one of the fastest-growing … and just making people feel good about being a part of Prince George’s public schools,” said County Executive Rushern L Baker III.

Diploma, Associate Degree

About 60 freshmen at Frederick Douglass High School in Upper Marlboro began their first day of high school and college on Sept. 6.

The school will be the first in Maryland to accommodate two cohorts through the Pathways In Technology Early College High Schools, or P-TECH. Students will be encouraged to complete high school and earn an associate’s degree in four years.

Each student will receive support, counseling and mentoring on the health information from MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center and hospitality services from Marriott Hotels.

When students enter the 10th grade they can visit a job site, receive a paid internship in the 11th grade and possibly obtain a job in the 12th grade, according to a summary of the program.

The state Department of Education will provide $750 per student yearly with matching funds from the county toward transportation to Prince George’s Community College, a laptop and other materials.

The career opportunities in the health program include data integrity analyst, medical billing and coding specialist and a compliance officer. Those who choose hospitality management could pursue jobs as an event coordinator, service manager or purchasing controller.

“I have to sell the program to businesses and let them know we have the best and brightest ready to work,” said Jim Coleman, president and CEO of the county’s Economic Development Corp. “Even if these students don’t get into the hotel business … they will learn life skills. In 2021, a kid graduates with an associate’s degree, a high school diploma, a job and a bright future. Moms and dads love that and has them doing cartwheels.”

History Made

Fairmount Heights High School holds a place in history in Prince George’s County.

The school, named after the town of Fairmount Heights, opened in 1950 as the first county school funded by public money to serve black students. Frederick Douglass opened as the first-ever school for blacks about 25 years earlier.

Fred N. Smith, an alumnus of 1963, recalled when the school didn’t have baseball and soccer fields, lights or bleachers on one side of the football stadium.

The new campus in Hyattsville sits on more than 37 acres with eight tennis courts, three outdoor basketball courts and a stadium with lights and a turf field.

“We were somewhat of a secondhand school,” Smith said. “Despite what Fairmount may have lacked in its physical abilities, the staff more than prepared us for life.”

It’s unclear what’s going to happen with the old campus which sits on 14 acres in Capitol Heights. In the meantime, a ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled at the new Fairmount Heights on Oct. 13, with a 67th anniversary gala for alumni to follow that evening at Martin’s Crosswinds in Greenbelt.

Although one of the smallest schools in the county with 700 students, Fairmount Heights houses the reigning 1A state basketball and indoor and outdoor track and field champions.

Yearlarndo Reed II, a senior on the basketball team, stared in amazement inside the building, which he says has a better-looking cafeteria, no water leaking from the roof and a brighter gym.

“I can’t wait until basketball season,” he said with a smile.

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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