Prince George’s County Public Schools community members spoke out against deteriorating school conditions and slow progress on improvements at a public hearing about the school system’s Capital Improvement Program this week.
The CIP, headed by new PGCPS Superintendent Millard House II and the Board of Education, is a strategic plan that allocates funding for capital projects across county schools for the current fiscal year and the next five fiscal years.
The projects that receive funding are chosen based on systematic prioritization of needs, established in the school system’s Educational Facility Master Plan.
This fiscal year’s CIP contains $92.3 million in state and county funding to modernize schools in the county, including William Schmidt Outdoor Education Center, Suitland High School, Cool Spring Elementary School and Adelphi Elementary School. Construction for a new high school in the northern part of the county and a full renovation of High Point High School are also part of the approved funds in the 2024 CIP.
But parents and students advocated at Tuesday’s hearing for the CIP to prioritize renovations in other schools across the county, which they said need more attention.
“I saw a lot of individuals representing schools around the county. However, I saw none for Parkdale, which was quite disheartening,” said Richard Potts, a previous Prince George’s County student who graduated from Parkdale High School in 2023.
During his time at Parkdale, Potts said there were issues with the HVAC, subpar building conditions, pest infestations, Wi-Fi issues, overcrowding and poor track and football field conditions.
“How are we to see improvements on these issues when nobody will voice these concerns?” Potts said.
Some funds in the CIP are distributed to various schools in the Alternative Construction Finance program, where PGCPS pays a developer to design, build and maintain six schools over a 30-year service period.
Five schools in the ACF program — Walker Mill Middle School, Kenmoor Middle School, Drew-Freeman Middle School, Hyattsville Elementary School and Colin Powell K-8 Academy — are expected to open this fall. Students who attended these schools were temporarily relocated to others while developers carried out upgrades.
Sonia Sotomayor Middle School, a new PGCPS school opening through the ACF program, will also open in the fall.
Almost 30 percent of the CIP money is allocated for HVAC upgrades, said Shawn Matlock, the capital programs director for PGCPS.
Parents, however, said they want more of the funds to address existing schools that are allegedly overcrowded and dilapidated. They also called for better communication from PGCPS on the status of school improvement projects.
“The parents have been left in the dark,” said Alicia Carter, whose child attends the Phyllis E. Williams Spanish Immersion school.
Carter said at the public hearing that students, teachers and administrators at Williams were relocated to Robert Goddard Montessori School this summer due to HVAC updating. She added that parents were given a presentation on March 22 detailing the timeline of the process, but have not received any information since then.
In addition to the temporary displacement, Carter said Williams students face a significant commute because of the relocation, and it takes some more than an hour to travel home from school.
“A simple email could be sent out within 24 hours just to give the parents some type of communication because it is not fair to us,” Carter said.
Candance Perkins, another PGCPS parent, also said at Tuesday’s hearing that there is inadequate support for county facilities — including at Frederick Douglass High School, where her daughter is earning a four-year high school diploma and a two-year associate’s degree at the same time through the school’s P-TECH program.
Douglass is in need of renovations such as updating the bathrooms, the science wing and the softball and baseball fields, Perkins said.
“Fredrick Douglass is out of the state and local government priority areas for economic growth and development,” she said. “The impact of the lack of support and modernization of the building is evident inside and outside the school.”
PGCPS personnel overseeing the CIP did not respond to any community members’ comments during the public hearing.
But Perkins said that she hopes the action she’s looking for will come soon.
“It has taken far too many years for a change to come,” she said. “The time is now.”