Upper Marlboro charter school may not move to Forestville -- Gazette.Net


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An Upper Marlboro charter school may not move to a new building after the church that currently houses the school has agreed to negotiate a new lease and help pay for improved Internet infrastructure.

“The Imagine Foundations at Leeland parents are pleased ... for our school to remain at the current location,” said Sidney Thomas, parent of an Imagine Foundations student. “Stability in the classroom and learning environment is an important factor in helping our students maximize their academic potential.”

The Imagine Foundations at Leeland charter school in Upper Marlboro was in talks to move to the empty Berkshire Elementary building in Forestville because the school needed faster Internet for new online testing and the school’s landlord, St. Barnabas’ Episcopal Church, wanted to raise the rent by about 13 percent, parents said.

The school’s lease ended this school year and Imagine Foundations officials had been searching for a new location since January, but only told parents about the move on March 20. This angered parents, who felt they didn’t have enough time to prepare for or have a say in the move, said Bowie resident Andrea Ledbetter, who has two children attending Imagine Foundations. Imagine Foundations serves 475 students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

The Prince George’s County Board of Education struck from the agenda Thursday the school’s move request because Imagine Foundations is in negotiations with the church to stay at its current location, said Shawn Toler, Regional Director of Maryland Imagine Foundations. Toler said nothing was finalized but the school was likely to find common ground with the church and stay in Upper Marlboro.

“I am excited about the recent negotiations with the vestry and we do feel confident that we are in a great place,” Toler said.

St. Barnabas’ Episcopal Church officials could not be reached for comment Friday.

The push to keep Imagine Foundations at its current location in Upper Marlboro’s St. Barnabas’ Episcopal Church came after parents discovered the school was considering moving to Berkshire and campaigned to keep it in Upper Marlboro, Ledbetter said. The short time between the announcement of the move and the possible decision angered parents because the county’s charter school lottery, which happens once a year, was closed, Ledbetter said. The lottery pulls children from a waiting list into charter schools, Ledbetter said.

Parents would have been forced to send their children to private school or their local public schools if they couldn’t handle the move to Berkshire, parents said.

“With this decision to move the school, we feel that choice has been taken away from us,” parent Katedra Nixon said at a March 27 school board meeting.

The frustration from parents sparked harsh words from school board chairman Segun Eubanks, who told Imagine Foundations officials they “had failed” parents.

On Thursday though, he had a different tone.

“I want to thank you personally for your responsiveness to your parents ... and for really listening to the board and working hard to seek resolution on behalf of the children and family at Leeland,” Eubanks said.

ccook@gazette.net