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August 2020 News Briefs

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Posted on: August 4, 2020

Richard McKee to be principal of Hyattsville Elementary School


Richard T. McKee, Jr. has been announced as the new acting principal for Hyattsville Elementary School (HES). 


According to his Aug. 3 letter of introduction, McKee has served as a teacher, resource educator and administrator for Prince George’s County Public Schools for over 18 years. He is currently writing a dissertation for his doctorate in educational leadership.


“I am passionate about finding equality in education through equity and social justice,” McKee wrote in his letter.


McKee attended the Aug. 4 PTA meeting and emphasized his commitment to good communications; he plans to revamp the HES website, launch a monthly newsletter and increase the school’s social media presence. McKee also spoke of the need for reciprocal trust and the importance of the instructional program and mission of the school.


“Your voice is very important,” added McKee. “I guarantee you that your voice will always be heard. We may not always be able to give you the answer that you want, but I guarantee you your voice is heard.”


McKee said he was hoping to schedule open-forum “chat and chew” sessions for parents to talk to him, as well as virtual meetings between parents and teachers.


“I look forward to an amazing year building relationships with everybody,” McKee said. “[It] might be challenging, virtually, but we’re still going to do it!”

City makes progress towards vote-by-mail system 


At the July 20 city council meeting, City Clerk Laura Reams gave a presentation about the potential to hold the May 2021 Hyattsville city election via a vote-by-mail system.


Reams said that the Hyattsville election philosophy is that voting should be “easy and convenient, safe, secure and accessible, and, of course, it should be fun!”


Hyattsville has implemented a variety of strategies to expand voting rights and increase voter turnout, such as allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in 2015, allowing non-U.S. citizens to vote in 2017, and implementing same-day voter registration and pop-up polling in 2019. 


A motion to explore holding elections using vote-by-mail was first suggested in 2018. With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many other municipalities are also considering vote-by-mail options. Multiple council members spoke in support of vote-by-mail elections.


While no details have been finalized, Reams suggested a system in which ballots and postage-paid return envelopes would be mailed to all registered voters. Those not wishing to entrust their ballot to the mail could use a secure drop box. Ballots would be mailed 30-45 days before the election. Individuals could still vote in person, and even register in person, on election day. 


Reams cited many advantages to a vote-by-mail system, including increased voter participation  and higher satisfaction. Hyattsville generally has a voter turnout of around 15%. Nearby municipalities such as Rockville and New Carrollton have implemented vote-by-mail systems with good results, seeing increases in voter turnout from 3% to 33% in New Carrollton and from 15% to 31% in Rockville. 


Reams said, however, that implementing a vote-by-mail system is likely to increase infrastructure costs, especially initially. She declined to speculate on specific costs, as expenses related to vote-by-mail systems vary widely. The City of Hyattsville will put out a request for proposals, which will be discussed at the September city council meeting.

County planning board approves detailed site plan for Magruder Pointe upper lot


At its June 11 meeting, the Prince George’s County Planning Board unanimously approved, with conditions, a detailed site plan (DSP) for the upper lot of the Magruder Pointe development, the former site of the Washington Suburban Sanitation Commission (WSSC) headquarters. The DSP, submitted by Werrlein Properties, specifies development of the 3.59-acre parcel with 16 single-family detached houses and 15 single-family town houses. The proposed single-family houses are located in two groups, one facing 41st Avenue and the other facing Hamilton Street. The proposed town houses primarily face Gallatin Street. The plan calls for an alley bisecting the triangular lot and allowing access to most of the dwellings. 


The former WSSC property has been vacant for more than 20 years. The Magruder Pointe development has been contentious since it was first proposed to residents in the fall of 2017. The Hyattsville City Council has voted numerous times against Werrlein’s proposal to rezone the lower lot, site of the former WSSC parking lot. On May 16, 2019, however, the District Council voted for rezoning. Hyattsville’s appeal of the District Council’s decision was heard on Feb. 26. According to an Aug. 8 email from Hyattsville Public Information Officer Cindy Zork, no decision has yet been issued. 


By the numbers: COVID-19 in Hyattsville in early August


According to city officials, 3,337 patients were tested for COVID-19 at the City of Hyattsville’s free testing site at United Methodist Church of Hyattsville. About 186 of these people tested positive.


That rate — 5.6% positive — is about the same as the rate for the county overall, and a little higher than the average for the state (under 5% for the month of  July). Positive test rates in the county peaked at 43% in mid-April and have remained under 7% since mid-June.  


After July 4, the county, like the rest of the state, did a lot more tests. During the week of July 12 to 18, the county tested about 20,000 people, which was twice as many as in the last week of June.  


New cases in Prince George’s County were under 600 per week at the end of June but jumped to closer to 900 per week at the end of July. This is still much lower, however, than the 2,400 new cases per week in Prince George’s County at the end of April.


Some 23,000 are known to have been infected with COVID-19 in Prince George’s County, including 161 nursing home residents and three nursing home staff members. Approximately 750 people have died.


For context, in 2015, when the county had 909,000 residents, the number of people who died of any cause during the entire year was 5,576. The leading causes of death that year were heart disease and cancer, each of which caused more than 1,300 deaths. 


For the week of July 26 – Aug. 1, 65 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in Prince George’s County, down from 244 at the beginning of May. The county had 64.3% of ICU beds available.  



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