Last night, Prince George's County Public School officials gathered at Nicholas Orem Middle School in Hyattsville for the first of three public forums on school administrative changes under consideration.
While most of the residents who spoke at last night's forum were interested in news about the new Hyattsville area elementary school–which will be opening a year later than planned–they also listened as county school officials presented a series of proposed changes to school boundaries and grade structures at schools across the county.
More Middle Schools Proposed to Add Sixth Grade
County school officials proposed expanding the number of middle schools serving sixth graders. This fall, 11 other schools across the county converted to a three-grade middle school structure.
Under the proposal, Benjamin Tasker Middle School would begin accepting some sixth graders from Woodmore Elementary. Ernest Everett Just Middle School would begin accepting sixth graders from Ardmore Elementary School and some from Woodmore Elementary as well. Greenbelt Middle School would begin accepting students from Magnolia Elementary School. Hyattsville Middle School would begin accepting sixth graders from Hyattsville Elementary School and some from Riverdale Elementary School, which already sends some of its rising sixth graders to William Wirt Middle School. Walker Mill Middle School would begin accepting sixth graders from Capitol Heights and John Bayne elementary schools.
In 2010, county school officials combined Henry Ferguson Elementary and Eugene Burroughs Middle School into Accokeek Academy, serving grades K-8. But at the time, they neglected to change the boundaries for the two schools. The result was that some Accokeek Academy sixth graders found themselves moving on to other middle schools, while some rising seventh graders from other elementary schools were being enrolled at Accokeek.
Now, with a new school building under construction that will bring the two schools under one roof, county school officials hope to combine the two boundaries. The result would create a "true K-8 configuration" with students passing through the grades together until graduation.
County school officials propose redrawing the boundaries so that sixth through eighth grade students from the Potomac Landing and Fort Washington areas to Oxon Hill and Isaac Gourdine Middle Schools, which are currently under capacity.
Currently, Accokeek is overcrowded by a little more than 100 students. County school officials propose reducing the student population at the school by 270.
Oxon Hill High School Re-Alignment
While a new Oxon Hill High School facility is set to open its doors next August, the Maryland Public School Construction Program only approved funds to build a school with a maximum capacity of 1,200 students. This is because surrounding high schools, like Crossland, Friendly and Potomac High Schools, are all under capacity.
Oxon Hill High School currently serves roughly 1,600 students. Those additional 400 students will have to be split up somehow.
During last night's meeting, county school officials presented a number of options, including reassigning the roughly 450 students who live in Oxon Hill High School's district inside the Beltway to Potomac High School or splitting the 400 students up between Crossland, Friendly and Potomac High Schools.
The first option would increase enrollment at Potomac High School, which is now nearly 1,200 students under capacity.
The second option has the potential to more evenly balance enrollments among the area schools. But school officials said that a multiple school realignment could make it harder to reach a consensus among area residents about where their kids should go to school. It would also have a greater impact on school facilities and staffing levels.
Consolidate Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program
The county Department of Special Education has recommended that all students with hearing impairments be enrolled at a single, to-be-determined, pre-K through eighth grade school so that those students can spend more time with other students with similar disabilities.
Currently, hearing impaired students in the special education program in Prince George's County are enrolled at two elementary schools, Thomas Claggett and Bladensburg, and Thomas Johnson Middle School.
The number of students affected by such a change would be small, roughly 60.
While no recommendation has been made as to which school could house the hearing impaired special education program, William Hall Academy and Andrew Jackson Academy were listed as options which might have the space needed to accomodate the program. However, such a move would reduce the number of students at Thomas Clagget Elementary to less than 200 students.
County Seeks Feedback on Proposed Changes
Throughout last night's meeting, county school officials urged residents to send in feedback about the proposed changes. Parents and students can send feedback via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or over the phone at 301-952-6300.
The county has two more public forums scheduled to gather feedback, as well. The next is on Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. at Walker Mill Middle School in Capitol Heights, followed by another forum on Dec. 12 at 6 p.m. at Oxon Hill Middle School in Fort Washington.
According to a timeline laid out by county school officials last night, the proposals will be adjusted by early January based on feedback received from the public. A target date for the school board to vote on the proposed changes has been set for Feb. 7, 2013.