CAPTION: Jason Washington, the newly hired public-private partnerships director for Prince George’s County public schools, explains the timeline to hire a developer during a virtual meeting Aug. 21. (Screen grab: PGCPS)

Final proposals by developers to build six new schools costing nearly $1 billion in Prince George’s County are scheduled to be submitted next month.
The majority Black jurisdiction became the first in the nation to utilize a public-private partnership, also known as P3, for school construction by selecting a private company to handle construction and maintenance.
Jason Washington, the school system’s new public-private partnerships director, said during a school board meeting Friday, Aug. 21 four developers expressed interest in submitting final proposals.
According to the terms of the proposal, at least 30 percent of the contract value must be procured through minority and county-based businesses.
“Not participation, but pure dollars. It is an unwaivable requirement,” he said.
The cost would be an annual cap of $32 million for 30 years to build these schools for an estimated total of $960 million: Adelphi Area, Drew Freeman, Hyattsville, Kenmoor and Walker Mill middle schools and Southern Area K-8 school.
According to a proposed schedule, the first schools would be occupied by July 15, 2023 and the last schools exactly a year later. Kenmoor and Walker Mill middle schools are slated for occupancy by Dec. 30, 2023.
A timeline shows the board is to approve a company Oct. 20.
County officials have said the P3 format would increase the time to construct the schools and decrease an estimated $8.5 billion backlog.
Once construction gets completed and students, teachers and staff are inside the schools, the school system would regain control of the buildings and payments to the contractor is to begin.
Prince George’s will receive some state funding toward the projects thanks to lawmakers approving the $2.2 billion public school construction bill called the “Built to Learn Act of 2020.”
Besides overcrowding in the schools, a state agency ranked the county as one of the top three jurisdictions in Maryland to house some of the oldest school buildings. The average age of buildings in Prince George’s: about 41 years.
A proposed part of a contract discussed Friday dealt with certain protections for workers.
Washington said workers will receive prevailing wages, but the county has no authority to dictate those benefits provided by subcontractors.
Board Vice Chair Edward Burroughs III said regulations should have “teeth in it” to ensure those hired receive decent wages, health care and other benefits. In addition, he said other government agencies have put in certain provisions.
“It’s really important to hire folks who live in the county and we ensure that we are not only paying them a prevailing wage, but we’re also ensuring those companies treat them appropriately,” he said. “We’re using this as an opportunity to pull people out of poverty and really giving them good jobs and benefits.”
Burroughs and board member Raaheela Ahmed asked about provisions of the contract which would penalize a company $1.5 million if it doesn’t comply during a 60-day negotiation period to finalize an agreement.
“It seems really insignificant,” Burroughs said about the penalty for a developer working on a nearly $1 billion project.
“We wanted to incentive developers to deliver schools as quickly as possible,” Washington said. “It’s one of those where we had to balance in making sure we receive schools on time with the fact that they are incentivized to get them done.”
Even though the school system will use a non-traditional method to build new schools, some board members said the P3 model remains a worthy investment.
“There are controls in there so that we do not let someone go willy-nilly and build whatever they want,” said board member Sonya Williams. “I just want everyone to have an open mind when we talk about this new process because we don’t have an alternative other than waiting 10 years for one school to be built at a time.”

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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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