It’s happening slower than most have hoped for, but Prince George’s County’s public high school’s are showing some progress when it comes to improving their athletic facilities.
It’s hard to tell when you look at the relatively quick progress being made in neighboring Montgomery County, but Prince George’s County Public Schools Director of Interscholastic Athletics Earl Hawkins said you can’t compare the two counties.
“We don’t operate the same,” Hawkins said. “We really don’t operate the same, and financially, I don’t know how they stack up to us, but I think they have more resources right now in terms of money.”
Montgomery County does have more financial resources than Prince George’s. MCPS allocated $7.8 million last fiscal year to its athletic programs, which represent about .35 percent of its $2.23 billion operating budget. In the same time frame, PGCPS allocated nearly $4.4 million to athletics, which is only .26 percent of the county’s $1.687 billion budget.
While unable to provide an average amount of money spent last year by each of the 22 high schools with varsity teams in Prince George’s, Hawkins said that each school received a $17,000 allocation for expenses, which he said they don’t have a lot of.
His office pays for transportation and game officials, separately. And each school is expected to come up with a four- to five-year uniform and equipment plan in order to budget for replacements.
In contrast, Montgomery school’s, which spend an average of $155,000 on everything from maintenance, equipment, officials, uniforms, transportation, security, and other miscellaneous items such as awards, are given more spending power. Each school received an average allocation of $65,000, with the actual amount depending on how much money a school can generate on its own. The less money a school can generate, the more money it is allocated.
“The additional income that schools generate to cover the gap between the athletic allocation they receive and actual expenses are derived through a combination of sources, including gate receipts [which schools retain], fundraisers, booster clubs, playoffs and various supplements,” said Dr. William “Duke” Beattie, the Montgomery County Public Schools director of system-wide athletics.
The system used in Montgomery would probably benefit some Prince George’s schools, as several varsity coaches have expressed some dismay over how some of the newer school’s, in more affluent areas, seem to receive more money for less-needed improvements, over schools with longer-standing maintenance needs.
For instance, Potomac High School’s track has been so bad for years that All-Gazette first team track athlete Janay Fields said it looks like a parking lot. “Eighty-five percent of the track is concrete,” Fields said. “Us running on concrete causes shin splints. Some people fall doing hurdles because the track will lift up, and they won’t see it. And they’ll trip up.”
Crossland has what some school officials have called the worst track in the county.
The court at High Point High School in Beltsville was built in 1953, and varsity coach Rodney Lewis expressed concerns over its condition. He said that an alumnus told him how it looks exactly the same way it did 61 years ago.
“[The court has] been a constant problem every year that I’ve been there,” said Lewis, who will be entering his eighth year as the coach. He said county maintenance waxes it once in the fall. And when basketball season comes back around in the winter, the floor is just as slippery as it was before, because the volleyball season comes first.
In comparison, the basketball court at Damascus High School was built in 1950, when the school was built, making it the oldest court in either county. But their basketball coach said MCPS maintenance has done a good job at taking care of the floor and it poses no problems. He said they wax the floor twice a year; once for the fall season and once in the winter.
Hawkins said major maintenance repairs such as track resurfacing, gym-floor replacements, and overall renovations come from state funding of the Capital Improvement Program.
Prince George’s has had inadequate CIP funding to keep up with every maintenance need. It also why the county only has three high schools with field lights at its stadiums (Friendly, Largo and High Point). All 25 schools in Montgomery have field lights.
“For many years, PGCPS has faced a large ‘backlog’ of capital improvement projects due to inadequate capital improvement funding, and this has affected our ability to devote funds to pay for field lights,” said Max Pugh, the PGCPS Acting Communications Officer.
Instead, Pugh said the county plans to install lights with at each high school when it has artificial turf installed.
Oxon Hill is the first school with artificial turf in the county, set to debut this season. The field, along with the artificial turf fields expected to be installed at Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine, and Henry A. Wise in Upper Marlboro, by next summer, was paid for with state money. The fields typically cost upward of $1 million to install.
Montgomery used funding from private organizations and booster clubs to help pay for the installation of its six artificial turf fields at high schools. They have seventh on the way at Winston Churchill in Potomac that is also being funded by a private soccer club in exchange for preferred use.
Pugh said the county is dedicated to getting turf fields installed every single school.
“We have been working with the County Council and Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning to partner on funding for these fields. Our Chief Exectuive Officer, Dr. Kevin M. Maxwell, is committed to this project as evidenced by the installation of turf fields at his previous school district [Anne Arundel] at all high schools.”
Oxon Hill was rebuilt last year, and the school being new is significant because a lot of Prince George’s high school facilities are simply outdated in comparison to Montgomery.
The average year of when the combined 47 high schools with varsity teams in Prince George’s and Montgomery were built or re-built is 1981. Seventeen Prince George’s school’s were built before that year. Only four Montgomery school’s are that old.
All 25 Montgomery high schools have a second gym, only 10 in Prince George’s do. Nineteen Montgomery school’s have a dedicated wrestling and trainer’s room — 17 Prince George’s school’s are missing one or the other, and in some cases both.
David Lever, the executive director of the Maryland state Board of Public Works Interagency Committee on School Construction said many of these facilities aren’t required but factors such as size of the school site, jurisdiction demand, and even age of the school play a role in why some of these things could be missing.
“It could be due to age, yes,” Lever said. “[Having a particular facility] certainly isn’t a requirement. It’s just one of those things most schools have.”
A look at the proposed Fiscal Year 2015-2020 CIP submission by the county to the state shows the county has requested, and has even been approved, for funds from the state to help address some of these issues.
But dozens of other projects that were proposed accommodate academia first. Until more funds become available, some of the athletic facilities will have to wait in line.