Laurel Elementary School parents said they will be relieved Monday, when their children are expected to be able to attend classes at the school, which has been closed longer than expected because of construction.
The construction will convert the school, which was built in the early 1970s, from an open pod system — where there are no walls or doors housing multiple classes — with self-contained classrooms.
Prince George’s County earmarked $5.9 million for the project in 2008, and construction began in December 2010. Briant Coleman, a spokesman for Prince George’s County Public Schools, said contractors have been working on sections of the building since 2010, but the school has remained open. The school was supposed to be ready on the first day of school, but officials found out two days before that it didn’t pass inspection.
“I can’t wait,” Laurel resident Larry Boykin said Tuesday morning as he dropped off his children, second-grader Gabriel, 7, and first-grader Jasmine, 6. “I just moved here from San Antonio, Texas. I can’t wait until it gets back to normal.”
Kindergarten through sixth-grade students have been bused about 13 miles to Greenbelt Middle School, while pre-kindergarten students have been traveling roughly two miles to Scotchtown Elementary School in Laurel since the first day of school on Aug. 20.
Parent Stephanie Rizk said the experience has been traumatizing in some ways for her daughter, Petra Ostovitz, who is in the first grade.
“I have the kind of kid who likes to know what to expect, and the change in routine has been hard for her,” Rizk said.
Rizk said the school failed on two fronts in its response to the closure by not having a contingency plan in place in the event that students would be unable to occupy the building and for not effectively communicating with parents.
“The school’s website was not updated at any time during the summer,” she said.
Prince George’s County schools Associate Superintendent Andrew Zuckerman said the decision would have made sooner, but “it was our understanding that contractors would have the school ready for the first day of school.”
“As soon as we knew the school would not be ready, we acted swiftly,” Zuckerman said. “Our employees called all 540 families at Laurel Elementary School. We also sent multiple robocalls, text messages, social media alerts and issued a press release. On the first day of school, families saw a very good execution of response efforts.”
Melinda Lee, Laurel Elementary principal, said she appreciated how accommodating the students and their parents have been in dealing with the school being closed.
“The kids have been fantastic at following directions and being responsible,” she said. “And the parents have been very supportive. They saw how organized we were on the first day and felt good about the support we had from the whole school system.”
Lee said that two-thirds of the school building will be available for students to occupy when the school re-opens. She said all students except for those in the second and third grades will be inside the school. Second- and third-graders will be located in temporary classrooms adjacent to the building until construction is completed in March, Lee said.
Coleman said work on the school is just about finished.
“We have had some delays, but we have worked out the issues with the contractors and have brought on new contractors,” he said.
Rizk said that if she knew more about the entire plan, she might feel more comfortable with the timeline.
“But with the limited amount of information I have access to, it seems that interior renovations of this type shouldn't take so long,” she said.