Staff readying Bladensburg High's opening
Aug. 18, 2005
Jeffrey K. Lyles and Michael Kabran
Staff Writers


"This is our home now and it is absolutely magnificent," Bladensburg High School Principal Madeline Blading told students and parents Tuesday night at an open house orientation. Blading said the school will hold an assembly on the first day of school to discuss keeping the school clean and making sure the students are safe on campus.

With less than a week before the start of the school year, Bladensburg High School officials are seeing the usual influx of parents and students making last minute changes to schedules.

In addition, administrators are working hard to get the phone lines operational, one of the few remaining obstacles to smooth transition to the new school.

"This is an awesome technologically advanced facility and it's also interesting because we have a mix of emotions," said Principal Madeline Blanding.

"On one hand," she said, " we're excited to be in the building." But, on the other, "we're getting everything organized, which is more challenging with a brand new school," she said.

The new school was built at 5610 Tilden Street, she said, where the old Bladensburg High was constructed in 1950.

During the construction the school operated out of the Bel Air Annex in Bowie.

Although the hallways are still cluttered with boxes and desks, school officials hope the building will be ready for the Aug. 22 opening.

Enrollment at the school is estimated at 1,880, but the school's instructional specialist, Marjorie Spirer said that number could increase to about 1,920 by the start of the school year.

Major components of the new school complex are an auditorium and a gymnasium large enough to accommodate all events at the school. LCD projectors are also mounted in the ceilings and a wellness center, established through a partnership with the county's Health Department, will become operational.

"We'll have a nurse and doctor here on a part-time basis so if a student needs a shot or regular care, he or she can go there instead of missing school," Spirer said. "It will also be open to the community on certain days."

There will be a speaker's bureau where professionals in various health-related fields including physical therapists, medical researchers, pathologists and occupational therapists, will speak with students about their careers.

"Traditionally, you just hear kids saying they want to be a doctor or a nurse but this program will expose them to more professions," Smith said. "We have a shortage of health care professionals so I'm definitely an advocate of this program."

The center should be fully operational by October, Spirer estimates.

Special features

The new school will feature four new career oriented programs ­ the returning cosmetology and nursing joined by the debuting biomedical, and culinary arts programs.

"We're excited about starting it up," said Alma Smith, the school's biomedical coordinator. "What makes biomedical different is that the students will get exposure to a hospital setting."

The biomedical program is based on a NASA curriculum and is the only one of its kind in the county.

About 45 freshmen are enrolled for the first year of the program although transportation is an issue for those outside Bladensburg's boundaries. "We have students signed up from Clinton, Waldorf and Fort Washington who really need transportation," Smith said.

While Bladensburg High operated at the Annex, the cosmetology program was based at Laurel High School.

The nursing program, held in conjunction with Prince George's County Hospital, operated out of Northwestern High School.

This year school will began an hour later -- 9:30 and end at 4:10. "It's difficult to say how that will work out yet," Blanding said.

"There is an opportunity for faculty some student tutoring in the morning instead of the afternoon when everyone wants to get home," she said.

The return of Bladensburg High School to the town will bring the number of schools to four, including Elizabeth Seton High, Port Towns and Rogers Heights Elementary Schools, in a three-block radius.

This past week the school held orientation sessions for all students. Parents were invited to tour the building with the students.

Other improvements

In other school news, Nicholas Orem Middle School will be a more beautiful campus when students arrive for the first day of classes.

During the summer, 125 eighth-graders from the school spent five weeks planting flowers and trees, painting murals and creating wall sculptures as part of a University of Maryland's program aimed at improving older schools in the area, Vice Principal Jeffrey Parker said.

The program was organized with the help of the Langley Park Boys and Girls Club which is in its second year, but first at Nicholas Orem.

The Hyattsville middle school is nearly 45 years old and was in dire need of a facelift Parker said.

"It's showing it's age," he said. "[This effort] was a real beautification project."

The school also has a revamped sports program and will add a sixth-grade class with 120 students. The school already has 340 eighth-graders and 320 seventh-graders.

The influx of new sixth-graders comes as the school loses many students due to the dissolution of its magnate program. The numbers lost and gained are about equal, Parker said. As a result, overcrowding will not be an issue.

Last year, Nicholas Orem offered competitive basketball and soccer teams. This year, baseball and softball will also be available.

County officials believe an expanded athletic program will help to keep kids off the streets after school by involving them in productive activities.

Parker said all county middle schools would now offer magnate courses.

E-mail Jeffrey K. Lyles at