It wasn’t the switch from Glenarden Woods Elementary to Judge Sylvania W. Woods Elementary that has parents raising concerns, it’s the students’ walk to school that has them worried.
Beginning this school year, Glenarden Woods is a Talented and Gifted school, offering only accelerated coursework. As a result, about 140 student from the school were transferred to Judge Sylvania W. Woods — and those living within 1.5 miles are not provided bus service since the school system considers them close enough to walk to school
However, parents such as Jacqueline Thompson of Glenarden, whose two daughters transferred schools, are concerned about what will happen when daylight saving time ends Nov. 4 and the mornings are darker. School begins at 7:45 a.m. at Judge Sylvania W. Woods, and Thompson runs a home day care that doesn’t allow her time to drive her daughters to school.
“What’s going to happen when they leave 10 minutes to 7 [a.m.]?” Thompson said. “What is it going to look like when the time changes?”
Thompson said she encourages her two daughters to walk in groups of four to get to the school.
Doris Payton has children at both schools. Her sixth-grade daughter, Zhané Payton, 12, and third-grade son, Dhaunté Payton, 8, transferred to Judge Sylvania W. Woods while fifth-grade son, Reginald Payton III, 10, remained at Glenarden Woods.
“It’s really far,” Zhané Payton said of the walk. “I have to do a bunch of turns and stuff, and then when I get there, I have to go up a hill and then down a hill.”
Peggy Higgins, vice chairwoman of the Prince George’s County school board, said there is a safety plan in place that adds an extra crossing guard and assigns teachers to monitor students as they come in and leave for dismissal. Higgins was among several school officials who met with Glenarden Mayor Gail Parker Carter on Aug. 17 to discuss the concerns of former Glenarden Woods parents. According to Higgins , there have been no complaints from parents whose children have been walking to the school prior to this year.
Higgins said a meeting is being planned with the Glenarden City Council to discuss the community’s concern about the student transfers.
“We understand that this change has been a challenge for some of our parents, and they would have preferred a different solution,” Higgins wrote in an Aug. 23 email to The Gazette.
Repeated calls to the county school system for comment were not returned by press time.
Part of the safety plan includes having a morning shift Glenarden police officer to monitor surroundings as children go to school. There are currently 12 full-time city officers including Chief Phil O’Donnell.
“To the extent possible, we’ll be there, but we still have to answer calls for service,” O’Donnell said. “If we’re not on a call, we’ll be there because the schools are very important to us. Also, the mayor wants us to do it.”
Doris Payton said she is still concerned about the distance children have to walk from streets such as Echols and Dellwood avenues. Thompson said their options are either to cut behind A-1 Liquor and Restaurant or go down a quiet side street to get to Judge Sylvania W. Woods Elementary — both options she said raise concerns. Thompson makes her two daughters walk where there is more vehicle traffic and tries to organize car pools with other parents.
“We’ve been trying to rally for a bus,” Payton said. “However, that hasn’t happened as of yet.”