Prince George’s officials look at consolidating schools, again -- Gazette.Net







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Joyce Segura of Temple Hills said she sees positive changes at Potomac High School in Oxon Hill, which her 16-year-old daughter attends, adding the school is “really beginning to excel.”

“They are getting better teachers, and implementing behavioral standards,” said Segura, vice president of the school’s PTA. “Grades have been raised, and tests scores are up.”

But changes could be coming for the under-enrolled school. Prince George’s County school board members said they will be taking a look at whether a round of school consolidations to level out enrollments — and allowing for better allocation of resources — are necessary.

“It is something that will need to come about,” said school board member Henry P. Armwood Jr. (Dist. 7). “We need to look at our school boundaries and how to draw them logically.”

Armwood estimated discussions would start in November.

“It will be a process,” he said. “There will be hearings in the community.”

Potomac operated at 51 percent capacity last year, said Johndel Jones-Brown, director of pupil accounting and school boundaries for the county school system.

Last school year, Highland Park Elementary in Landover operated at 32 percent capacity; Robert R. Gray Elementary in Capitol Heights hit 46 percent capacity; and two Temple Hills schools — Panorama Elementary and Overlook Elementary — operated at 51 percent capacity, Jones-Brown said.

Details regarding how many county schools are underutilized was not immediately available.

“Inevitably, there are shifts in student enrollment as young families join the community, raise children, and transition to retirement,” Jones-Brown said. “Underutilization is always a concern, and we closely monitor enrollment data to help us make cost-effective decisions.”

Jones-Brown said Highland Park and Oakcrest Elementary School in Landover were merged, and the school now is operating at about 80 percent capacity in the Oakcrest facility. Jones-Brown also said reduced enrollment at Panorama and Overlook elementary schools can be attributed to a decline in school-age population, but was not able to provide detailed numbers regarding the decline.

Eight county schools were shuttered in 2009 to balance enrollments and save the school system about $6 million.

“It’s becoming too common in this area,” Segura said. “They’re always trying to blend and not better the schools. I get so frustrated.”

Avis Clark of Temple Hills, whose son, Javon Clark, 15, attends Potomac, said consolidating schools does not address the real problem: a lack of teachers.

“The county plays Russian roulette with our children,” Clark said. “There may be empty classrooms, but there are not enough teachers to accommodate the students who are there.”

School board member Patricia Eubanks (Dist. 4) said that, just like in a household, when money gets tight, “You have to do what you have to do.”