Prince George’s County school officials are taking a new approach to evaluating the system’s aging school inventory, an effort that includes broader information to determine which facilities are most in need of help.
“We’re in the process of developing the new criteria right now, based on what we’re seeing being used in neighboring jurisdictions,” Sarah Woodhead, director of capital programs, said at a Community Engagement Master Plan meeting Tuesday night that focused on the northern part of the county.
The school system has been using the Facilities Condition Assessment, which was last updated in 2012, to rank schools in need of replacement or major renovation based on the age of the facility and its components, said Deanna Newman, a consultant with Minneapolis-based Public Pathways, which is working with the school system.
The assessment ranking has been used to determine the priority in which schools receive state and county funding for renovations.
“Maybe the Facility Condition Assessment isn’t the only way we should be evaluating our facilities,” Newman said. “We want to move towards a more holistic approach.”
This new Educational Adequacy Assessment is still being developed, Woodhead said.
The additional criteria that may be considered include the overall learning environment, the size and quality of specialty spaces, sustainability, security, and school capacity and utilization, Newman said.
“Schools that are currently overutilized are in the north part of the county, and schools that are underutilized tend to be in the south, and tend to be inside the Beltway,” Newman said.
Newman noted that most of the school system’s 22 high schools are more than 40 years old.
Currently, only Fairmont Heights High School in Capitol Heights is slated for replacement, Woodhead said. A feasibility study is currently being done on High Point High School in Beltsville.
Woodhead said the goal is to have all the high schools evaluated under the new set of criteria by June.
Jocelyn Nolasco, a junior at Parkdale High School in Riverdale, noted that her school lacks an auditorium. The school’s cafeteria is a multipurpose room but only holds 422 students, Nolasco said, in a school of around 2,200 students.
“How can we prioritize one of our main projects to push forward, which is an auditorium?” asked Nolasco. “It’s not just a want; it’s become a necessity for us.”
Woodhead said an auditorium is considered a standard feature for a high school and would figure into the new assessment model.
Kevin Kendrick, a seventh-grade teacher at William Wirt Middle School in Riverdale, said his school does not have drinking water, and has had recurring mold and mildew problems.
“It’s frustrating to see the county come in and put a Band-Aid on a problem, only to see the Band-Aid fall off again and again,” Kendrick said.
Newman noted that Wirt was ranked 161 out of 186 facilities in priority under the assessment, also known as the Parsons Report. WIth the additional criteria, Wirt would rank higher in priority, she said.
“That’s why you don’t want to just use the Parsons Report, because William Wirt is a sick building; that’s what we keep hearing,” Newman said.
Woodhead said the new assessment is beginning with the high schools, but that doing all 204 schools at once would necessitate bringing on a consultant.
Woodhead said the school system has almost $2 billion worth of deferred maintenance, because of a lack of funding.
“We can’t modernize everything in five years. It’s going to be a process that has some duration,” Woodhead said.
A meeting for the southern planning area is scheduled for Jan. 16 at Crossland High School in Temple Hills and for the central planning area on Jan. 22 at Largo High School.