Upper Marlboro parents block sixth-grade relocation, for now -- Gazette.Net







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Parents of Barack Obama Elementary students spoke out against moving the school’s sixth-graders to nearby middle schools next year — and Prince George’s County school officials listened.

A plan to send the sixth-grade class from the Upper Marlboro school to James Madison Middle and Kettering Middle, also Upper Marlboro-based schools next school year to alleviate overcrowding has been scrapped. Instead, the sixth grade will likely move to Madison Middle in Upper Marlboro in the 2015-2016 academic year, county school officials said. Kettering will receive students from Arrowhead Elementary and Patuxent Elementary, both in Upper Marlboro.

To further address overcrowding — Obama Elementary has a capacity of 834 students, but has 896 students enrolled — officials will look at the school’s boundaries, potentially sending students to Perrywood Elementary in Upper Marlboro, said Max Pugh, Prince George’s County public school spokesman.

Perrywood Elementary would go from 639 students — its current enrollment — to 706 with 85 seats left before it reaches capacity at 791 students, Pugh said.

“This is definitely a success for parents of fifth-graders this year,” said Sandra Collier, PTA president at Obama Elementary. “Some of our children are not ready to go to a middle school to interact with middle school children.”

Collier and other parents were opposed to moving the school’s sixth-graders during the 2014-2015 school year. Parents said the plan, which was announced in December, gave them less than a year to prepare their children for middle school.

They were also upset the initial plan didn’t examine Obama Elementary’s boundaries, the borders that determine which schools students attend.

School officials are hoping to remove the sixth grade from elementary schools countywide and place the grade level in middle schools. A. Duane Arbogast, schools chief academic officer, said studies show middle schools with a sixth- to eighth-grade spread was optimal for students.

Madison is the school of choice for Obama sixth graders because if Obama’s boundaries are changed it will filter all of its students into Madison, Pugh said. Obama currently sends students to both Madison and Kettering middle schools while Madison receives students from Arrowhead and Patuxent. With change to the boundaries, Madison would be able to take on all of Obama’s sixth graders — the middle school currently has 751 students of its 850 pupil capacity — while Arrowhead and Patuxent students, who currently feed into James Madison, are sent to Kettering, Pugh said.

The school board is expected to vote on the proposed changes Feb. 28.

School board member Lyn Mundey (Dist. 7), said the changes were a direct result of parents voicing their concerns at the Jan. 23 board meeting.

“They were highly motivated and highly organized around this issue,” Mundey said. “It is really a collaborative process to work together for what is best for the students.”

Although the parents have a longer warning, Collier said she would still prefer that sixth-graders stay at Obama, which she said is a state-of-the-art school.

“It has computers for every student to use and touch screen boards that engage the students,” Collier said.

Tim Gulley’s son is in the fourth-grade at Obama, which means if the sixth grade is moved in 2015-2016, it will impact his son. Gulley said he will likely enroll his son in a private or charter school if the Madison move is approved.

“I don’t believe [Madison] will give him the things he needs to progress,” he said.