The Prince George’s County school board voted to use the former Greenbelt Middle School as a new home next year for the Robert Goddard French Immersion program, currently located in Seabrook, with some space being offered for lease to the city of Greenbelt.
Ever since the announcement that a new Greenbelt Middle School — which opened in August — would be built, space in the current 141,125-square-foot building has been debated.
The Robert Goddard French Immersion Program, which provides academic instruction taught in French, shares a building with the Robert Goddard’s Montessori program, and the school has become very overcrowded, school officials said.
At the council’s Jan. 10 meeting, several parents of French immersion students spoke in favor of the program being moved, saying that fourth- and fifth-graders are housed in temporary classrooms outside the building due to overcrowding.
Robert Goddard has a state-rated capacity of 991, according to school system spokesman Briant Coleman. The Montessori program has an enrollment of 555 students; the French Immersion Program has 582 students enrolled, according to school officials.
Cassandra Nesmith, parent of a seventh-grader, said having to simultaneously share gym space with Montessori student gym classes, separated by orange traffic cones, results in chaos.
“Nobody on either side can hear instructors or make themselves heard. It’s ludicrous. Anyone who thinks orange traffic cones can keep a ball from soaring to the other side and disrupting class is sorely mistaken,” Nesmith said.
Sidney Wright, a French immersion fifth-grader, told the board that classes are held in “old, raggedy trailers,” and said it is troublesome to run to the main building in all kinds of weather whenever students need to use the bathroom.
According to the superintendent’s report, the cost of moving the French Immersion Program is approximately $335,000 for minor renovations and $391,327 for an additional nine full-time equivalent custodial and food service staff. All other staff would move with the program, interim Superintendent Alvin Crawley said.
French immersion students will start at the new building in August, Coleman said. The school system would also reserve space in the building for emergencies.
Five classrooms in the building would also be offered to the city of Greenbelt for lease. Crawley said the details, including rent, still need to be worked out with Greenbelt.
Greenbelt City Manager Mike McLaughlin said the city has not yet decided whether to accept the offer, but was interested in using the space for social services, such as counseling, tutoring and GED preparation, as well as recreation programming and to provide a greater physical presence for city government west of Kenilworth Avenue.
McLaughlin said the rooms under consideration are in a separate section of the building from where the French Immersion Program would be housed, and would have their own separate entrances and exits.