Annex set for ninth-grade use
July 14, 2005
Deitrich Curry
Staff Writer




Bowie High School ninth-graders will move into the Belair Annex this fall in an effort to relieve overcrowding at the high school.

Members of the Prince George's County School Board learned of the decision from Interim School Board CEO Howard Burnett during their July 7 meeting.

The announcement comes just weeks after Bladensburg High School teachers and students had moved from the annex, a site they occupied for four years.

Political and community leaders had complained to the Board of Education about the overcrowding at Bowie High School, which is 50 percent over capacity, according to John White spokesman for Prince George's County schools.

The leaders requested that the annex be used for students in Bowie after they learned that the annex was available, said Dr. Beatrice P. Tignor, Board of Education's chairwoman.

"We heard the cry from the community," Tignor said.

She received a letter from County Councilman Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Dist. 4) requesting that the Belair Annex be used for the freshman class at Bowie High School and that it could bring capacity down to 100 percent at Bowie High School.

She said his letter had been considered when making the decision.

"It was easier to do this knowing we had the support of the community," Tignor said.

Bowie High School is expected to have 2,816 students this year, of which 800 will be freshman. The state rated capacity for Bowie High School is 1,913 students, said White. If the annex did not go to Bowie High students, Tignor said that 30 temporary classrooms would have been needed to accommodate the extra students.

Lori Morris, a liaison between the city and the school system, advocated getting the Belair Annex back to Bowie students alongside Peters.

"I'm very excited," Morris said. "We worked very hard for this."

With a new elementary and middle school in Bowie, she said that the overcrowding problem in schools in the city is getting solved.

White Hall Elementary will open in Bowie this fall and construction is beginning for Northview Elementary, Morris said. Also, Samuel Ogle Elementary School will become a middle school to relieve crowding at Benjamin Tasker Middle School, the city's only middle school, she said.

"This will be the final piece of the puzzle," said, Morris, of ninth graders occupying the Belair Annex.

Jay Kenty, the vice principal at Bowie High School used to work at Benjamin Tasker two years ago. Tasker has fought a long and well-publicized battle with overcrowding for sometime.

"Bowie High School is just a bigger version of Tasker," Kenty said.

He said that using the Belair Annex for Bowie High School students does a great deal in solving the overcrowded problem at the school.

"We struck gold," he said.

In the 1980's, the annex housed Belair Junior High School because of its location off of Belair Road. It was finally closed because of the lack of students attending the school and then it was used by the school board. Most recently the annex has been used as a temporary school for Perrywood Elementary in Largo and Bladensburg High School students.

Peters said that he was pleased that the Board responded so quickly to the proposal. Peters had sent his suggestion on how to use the annex on June 24. Now, he said the solution has relieved crowded schools in Bowie.

"Overcrowding has become a thing of the past," Peters said.

E-mail Deitrich Curry at dcurry@gazette.net