In one of the most historical moments for Prince George’s County public schools, Monday, June 28 served as the first of six groundbreakings for the construction of new buildings for an estimated 8,000 students.
Dozens attended a ceremony to celebrate the new Walker Mill Middle School in Capitol Heights that will be built next to the current, nearly 50-year-old facility.
The state of Maryland’s second-largest school system accounts for housing the state’s second-oldest buildings with about 40% of the school buildings almost 60 years old based on construction documents.
Marcus Bryant, a Walker Mill graduate who will enter the ninth-grade year this fall at Charles H. Flowers High School in Springdale, said a new building will change the middle school’s pervasive negative reputation.
“When I was in fifth grade, I was honestly a little nervous to go to Walker Mill. I heard so many negative things about it from people who didn’t even go to this school,” said Marcus, who earned over a 4.0 grade point average his eighth-grade year.
“I’m hoping that the rebuilding of this school will either change that or mark the beginning of changing that,” he said. “The rebuilding of Walker Mill Middle School will be the first step in ensuring that all future, current and past students will truly be proud to say that Walker Mill Middle School was their school.”
The school system became the first in the nation to undergo a more than $1 billion public-private partnership [P3] project to build schools. Officials contend that the P3 project helps speed up the process to build schools quicker, address an $8.5 billion backlog in school construction and save about $174 million in deferred maintenance and construction costs.
“When I pick up that shovel, I’m going to pick it up to represent the voices of 134,000 students, 19,000 employees who deserve to work in the best facilities possible and for all their parents who want us to create memorable experiences . . . to be amazing citizens,” said public schools CEO Monica Goldson.
Fengate Capital Management, headquartered in Toronto, Canada, and Gilbane Development Co., based in Providence, Rhode Island, will lead and manage the project.
Stantec, an architecture firm with offices in Northwest and Laurel, Maryland, serves as lead architect while Honeywell of Charlotte, North Carolina, will count as the services provider.
Five of the six buildings represent new middle schools with all but one both located inside the Beltway and scheduled to open within three years.
School, state, county and construction officials and community leaders also tossed dirt Monday afternoon at Adelphi Area Middle School. Tuesday featured celebrations at Kenmoor and Drew Freeman middle schools with activities on Wednesday taking place at both Southern Area K-8 Academy and Hyattsville Middle School.
The project labeled “Blueprint Schools” also ensures about 30% of the total contract will be designated for minority-owned businesses with a minimum of 20% of the total awardees located in Prince George’s.
“It’s been an unusual year but I’m proud we’ve remained nimble and flexible to get to this point, even against the backdrop of the global pandemic,” said Paul Choquette, executive vice president for Gilbane Development Co. “Working together, we are going to get this done on schedule and on budget and deliver a project the community can be proud of.”