New Hyattsville school may house creative and performing arts program -- Gazette.Net


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Hyattsville’s newest school could host a creative and performing arts program while another may be converted into a specialty language immersion program, according to Prince George’s County school officials.

Johndel Jones-Brown, director of boundaries and pupil accounting for the county school system, presented several proposals under consideration to a gathering of about 50 community members Tuesday at Nicholas Orem Middle School in Hyattsville.

The presentation was the first of three being held in the county to look at boundaries and school programming, with the final one being held today at James Madison Middle School in Upper Marlboro. Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell will use information gathered from the forums to make recommendations, which will be up for adoption by the school board, according to the school system.

Jones-Brown said the new Hyattsville school, to be named this spring, will alleviate overcrowding at several neighboring schools.

“With the creation of 790 new seats in the new school, we hope to reduce or eliminate the use of temporary buildings,” Jones-Brown said.

The creative and performing arts program will be open only to students within that school’s boundaries,” Jones-Brown said.

“That’s just a proposal at this time. It has not been adopted, it has not been approved,” said Jones-Brown, adding that the purpose of the public forum is to solicit comment on the proposals.

Hyattsville Council member Shani Warner (Ward 2), a parent of a preschool-aged child, said the Creative and Performing Arts theme was a “good fit” for the community.

“I think that the Creative and Performing Arts program makes a lot of sense for this area, given the [performing arts] program at Hyattsville Middle, and the program at Northwestern, and keeping with the [Hyattsville] Arts District and the general priorities of this community,” Warner said.

Another proposal would convert Cesar Chavez Elementary, another Hyattsville school that houses a dual Spanish-English immersion theme program, into a specialty school serving the northern part of the county where students would enroll via lottery.

Two other schools, Phyllis E. Williams Elementary in Upper Marlboro and Overlook Elementary in Temple Hills, are proposed for conversion into full Spanish immersion specialty schools with lotteries for students in central and southern Prince George’s respectively.

Carlos Hernandez of Hyattsville said his daughter is a first-grader attending Cesar Chavez. She originally started school in Carole Highlands in Takoma Park, but Hernandez said he applied for and received a transfer to Chavez because it was closer.

“I’m excited about the immersion program, but I’m concerned about the lottery. Is she going to be sent back to Carole Highlands?” Hernandez said.

Jones-Brown said that if Cesar Chavez is converted to a specialty school, the answer would depend on the manner of conversion. If the school is instantly converted, then yes, his daughter would have to attend another neighborhood school.

“Emptying out a school and filling it only with kindergarten may not be the most efficient way of converting a neighborhood school to a specialty school,” Jones-Brown said.

Another option is to gradually convert it, allowing students already attending the school to remain, but replacing each grade with specialty school students as the first students advance in grade, Jones-Brown said.

janfenson-comeau@gazette.net