County school officials announced this week that the new Hyattsville Area Elementary School, under construction on Nicholson Street in West Hyattsville, will be opening one year later than planned. But the delay doesn't bother some West Hyattsville residents.
"I actually look at that as being a gift," said Jennifer Kubit, a West Hyattsville resident who has been increasingly active in public affairs concerning her neighborhood. "I think it gives us time to gather community resources and get some sort of cohesive community involvement around coming up with academic resources that works for this area."
As recently as Oct. 8, Prince George's County Public School officials had been hoping to have the school open by Aug. 2013, in time for the next school year.
But during last night's public forum on proposed changes to county school boundaries and academic programs, county school officials said that delays in land acquisition and construction have pushed back the opening date to 2014.
School officials said that they are awaiting lease paperwork to be signed by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which owns some of the land upon which an extended Editors Park Drive will be constructed. The extended Editors Park Drive will be the main vehicular access route to and from the school.
Now, with extra time in front of her, Kubit said that she wants county officials to take a second look at how the new elementary school and the existing Nicholas Orem Middle School will coexist with each other. The two schools are currently planned to share an athletic field, a fact which troubles Kubit.
"They are sharing one athletic field for 1,500 students," said Kubit, referencing the projected student population at the two schools. "It's effectively a K-8 campus in many ways. It will have different principals and different administrations, but it's not a physically seperate location. So, ideally it would be nice if we had some sort of thematic connection between the two buildings, so that if the school system puts in some resources at the new school, they also put in some resources over here [at Nicholas Orem Middle School], so it's not that one group of students is doing really well in one building, and then–I don't want to make it sound like this place is horrible–but not doing so well in another building."
Nicholas Orem's academic reputation is not the best. In 2011, eighth graders at Nicholas Orem Middle School tested significantly below state proficiency averages on the Maryland State Assessment exams for math, reading and science.
West Hyattsville resident Esther Berg said that she wants to make sure the new elementary school serves the entire area well.
"I'm hoping for the best possible elementary school," said Berg in an interview after the meeting. "A strong school community at all levels makes for a strong community overall."