Upper Marlboro charter school criticized for planned move, timing -- Gazette.Net


An Upper Marlboro charter school is planning to move to Forestville next school year, angering some parents who say the change is too far to travel and the announcement came too late in the school year.

“As parents, you want what is best for your children,” said Bowie resident Andrea Ledbetter, parent of two students at Imagine Foundations at Leeland, a public charter school in Upper Marlboro — adding that she may send her children to their neighborhood school if the move occurs.

“My children are worried about being separated from their friends,” Ledbetter said.

Imagine Foundations, which serves 475 students from kindergarten through eighth-grade, is located at St. Barnabas’ Episcopal Church but plans to move into the vacant Berkshire Elementary School in Forestville, which is about 10 miles away from its current site. Imagine Foundations officials said the move is necessary because its landlord, the church, wants to raise the school’s rent by about 13 percent, and the school needs faster Internet to meet the needs of upcoming online Common Core assessment testing, said Rhonda Cagle, Imagine Foundations spokeswoman.

“There is a technology gap in the current building,” Cagle said. “We want to make sure we are prepared for that … so that we can accurately assess students.”

Church officials did not return phone calls from The Gazette.

Parents are also frustrated that Imagine Foundations officials first told parents about the move March 20, about two months after the charter school lottery ended. Charter schools choose students from a lottery pool, but only one lottery is held each year. If parents knew about the move during the lottery, they could have tried to get into a different charter school, Ledbetter said.

Imagine Foundations officials told the Prince George’s County Board of Education they had been looking for a new location since January and said they didn’t tell parents until they were sure of the information.

The move has to be approved by the school board, which tabled the decision March 27 until Imagine Foundations develops a parent engagement plan as evidence that the charter school is working and communicating with parents moving forward. The board requested the engagement plan be submitted at the next school board meeting, April 10.

“The problem is you failed your parents,” said school board chairman Segun Eubanks. “... Your parents should have been engaged from the day you knew you couldn’t stay in that building.”

Not every parent opposes the school move.

Forestville resident Darrell Oliver, parent of a sixth-grader at the school, said he supports the Berkshire location because it is closer to his home. He said the students are going to get the same academic education as they did at the Upper Marlboro site.

“Hey, as long as my kid gets that quality education, I’m happy,” Oliver said.