As Belinda Queen-Howard saw new schools sprout in Upper Marlboro — such as Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School — the Capitol Heights parent felt as if her neighborhood school, Central High School, was getting left in the construction dust.
The sight of dead tree limbs, large sidewalk cracks and poor drainage that existed before students began school Aug. 20 spurred Queen-Howard to form the Central High School Revitalization Group on Aug. 3 to advocate for renovations at the 53-year-old school and organize campus cleanups — a move only confirmed when she saw students cope with a broken air conditioning unit during the first week of school.
“They had the kids trying to learn in a place where there was no [air conditioning],” Queen-Howard said. “Central needs to update. They need to either revitalize it or just do a whole new Central High School.”
Prince George’s County officials have no plans in the county school’s system’s Capital Improvement Program to replace the school, according to CIP documents on the school system’s website. The CIP is a list of funded school renovation and replacement projects.
The Central High building is listed as being in fair condition based on a county school general facility condition assessment, according to the website. A poor facility assessment would determine whether the school would be placed on the school system’s CIP, according to Briant Coleman, a county school system spokesman.
The group of 20, which includes community groups such as the Wilburn Civic and Millwood-Waterford Citizens associations, organized a Sept. 15 cleanup during which they raked leaves and painted school benches, Queen-Howard said.
Rodney Leonard of Clinton, whose daughter is a sophomore at the school, said more cleanups will be scheduled throughout the school year.
Leonard said having so many community groups wanting changes at the school should yield results.
He has noticed, he said, how much larger than Central are the newer schools, such as Wise, including the size of facilities such as Wise’s gym, which he described as “state-of-the-art,” with a scoreboard hanging from the ceiling.
“When you compare [Central] with [newer schools] there’s no comparison,” Leonard said of the buildings. “I think it affects the students. I think students do better in newer-looking environments.”
Queen-Howard said she will conduct a 6:30 p.m. Oct. 22 town hall meeting at Central in an effort to convince more parents to join the group and plan how they will advocate for additional repairs.
Central Principal Charoscar Coleman and county school board member Carolyn Boston (Dist. 6), who represents Central, will attend the meeting, Queen-Howard said. Boston did not return calls by press time.
Coleman said renovations are in the pipeline for the school. During next summer and fall, school officials will begin such renovations as a new office suite, a new career center and new school facade.
“The county has been providing support but, again, there is more that can be done,” Coleman said.
Queen-Howard — who has had eight children graduate from Central — said she has requested such changes for years.
Recent improvements include new windows, new skylights and repairs to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning unit, Coleman, the county schools spokesman, wrote in a Sept. 21 email to The Gazette. Projects in progress include a renovated science lab and new labs for food and nutrition, forensic and homeland security classes, Coleman added.
“We are excited about the academic progress and facility re-beautification process that is taking place at Central High School,” Coleman wrote. “We will continue to work with the school community to ensure the progress continues for many years to come.”