A Prince George's County map shows the majority of overcrowded schools in the 2020-21 school year are located in the northern and central part of the county. (Courtesy of PGCPS)
A Prince George's County map shows the majority of overcrowded schools in the 2020-21 school year are located in the northern and central part of the county. (Courtesy of PGCPS)

Prince George’s County Public Schools officials anticipate an estimated 143,300 students in the next three years, which could lead to overcrowding in the state of Maryland’s second-largest school district.

The school system began work on proposed school boundary changes which included more than 1,000 survey responses, emails and attendance at various virtual sessions throughout the year.

Nearly 320 people attended the school system’s final virtual discussion Saturday, Nov. 13 which showed most of the changes in the northern part of the county.

“In May of this year, we released a report with boundary adjustments,” said Rhianna McCarter, manager for pupil accounting and school boundaries division for PGCPS. “Now we need your feedback and guidance to help us select one scenario to refine into a final proposal.”

The proposal shows about 116,000 students would be affected who attend 165 neighborhood schools. About 19,000 students who attend charter and specialty schools and special education centers aren’t included in the plan.

The school system’s goal would be for all schools utilized by at least 80%, according to the document labeled “PGCPS School Boundary Initiative.” However, only 30% meet that target.

Prince George’s accounts for housing the state’s second-oldest buildings with about 40% nearly 60 years old.

A summary outlines the proposal based on three scenarios:

  • 48 schools with at least 80% of buildings utilized with 11% of students rezoned and two elementary schools consolidated.
  • 57 schools with at least 80% of buildings utilized with 12% of students rezoned and nine elementary schools consolidated.
  • 73 schools with at least 80% of buildings utilized with 14% of students rezoned and six elementary schools consolidated.

Depending on where parents live, their children may not be affected based on a certain address.

For instance, students who reside on Vega Court in Upper Marlboro anticipate remaining in their boundary schools of Arrowhead Elementary, Kettering Middle and Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High.

But for students who live on Guilford Court in College Park who currently attend Paint Branch Elementary, Greenbelt Middle and Northwestern High schools, they could attend different schools based on two of the three scenarios.

A few parents such as Makesha Williams, whose daughter attends Suitland High School, expressed concerns about overcrowding.

“She has 36 students in a class. There are too many kids there,” she said.

In five community meetings held this year prior to Saturday, participants chose “upgrade or build new” schools and decrease student capacity as the two main district-wide priorities.

One plan to relieve overcrowding in the lower grades calls for six construction projects that include Southern Area K-8 Academy in Fort Washington and represents the only school in the area known as “South County.”

The other five, all middle schools, include Adelphi Area; Hyattsville; Kenmoor in Landover; Walker Mill in Capitol Heights; and Drew Freeman, which originally housed La Raine High School, an all-girls Catholic school located next to Suitland High School.

It’s believed these schools will add another 8,000 students as part of a public-private partnership scheduled for completion by 2024.

At least another four construction projects to build new or expand schools have been proposed in the northern part of the county. The proposal seeks to address problems that may arise from over-utilized or overcrowded schools in this area.

Besides new schools, the school district proposes to place all sixth-grade students in the middle schools or buildings that house those in kindergarten through eighth grade. Some middle schools already incorporate sixth-grade such as James Madison in Upper Marlboro, Martin Luther King, Jr. in Beltsville and Stephen Decatur in Clinton.

“We expect to see more boundary changes in the north and central county where overutilization is the greatest,” said Chris Rice, a consultant on the project and a planning director for WXY Studio based in New York.

The next steps will be to incorporate community input and submit a final draft to school CEO Monica Goldson by January. She would present her recommendation a month later to the board of education who would grant final approval by April.

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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