BY MATT LEVISS

Years of frustration for Hyattsville parents over school infrastructure took a positive turn when the new Hyattsville Middle School (HMS) opened its doors, as scheduled, in August. An open house and celebration took place on Aug. 12, and — on Aug. 28 — sixth through eighth graders who had been divided among three different campuses since the 2021 school year finally started attending classes under the same new roof.  

The new Hyattsville Middle School opened its doors in time for the 2023-24 school year.
Courtesy of Alyssa Lee

Members of the community were invited to tour the new school, at 6001 42nd Avenue, to look inside a truly modern school building and see the programs that this building will accommodate. 

“Our theme for this year is ‘There’s No Place Like Home,’” said HMS Principal Chanita Stamper. “We’ve been gone for three years in various locations. I’m most excited to reconnect with our community in this permanent space.”   

With the return to a central campus in Hyattsville, fewer students will need to be bused, reducing tardiness related to late buses and a shortage of bus drivers. Teachers also welcome having a permanent home fitted with up-to-date equipment and smart classrooms. 

“I actually have technology now!” said Brenda Harsanje, head of the math department. “In our old building, the most modern tool I had was a chalkboard. Now I have a smartboard and the other technological resources needed to properly teach today.”  

Harsanje explained that poor equipment and technology, along with understaffing, have contributed significantly to gaps in the knowledge base of county school students — especially in math. She said that the new facility provides more of what students need to effectively master the curriculum.  

The building’s design facilitates staff collaboration and incorporates upgraded technology. Classrooms have collapsible walls to allow for cooperation between classes and to help facilitate teacher coverage when the school is understaffed. Each floor has seating collaboration areas for when students go out into the hall for group work. These collaboration areas are open and bright, with modern couches and chairs, as well as tables with power outlets.

Hyattsville Middle continues to host one of the county’s creative and performing arts, or CPA, magnet programs. The new school heavily emphasizes the arts — with a television studio, a drama classroom and separate suites for orchestra and band.  

“You walk into the [CPA] space, and you see the dance studio, you see the black box theater. It’s just surreal. We now have the resources to let our kids be creative and find passion in the arts,” said Precious Carter, the performing arts coordinator at the school.

While the new building was under construction, HMS students were split among as many as three campuses: Sixth graders attended Thomas Stone Elementary School in Mount Rainier, while seventh and eighth graders were split between Robert Goddard Montessori School, in Seabrook, and — for the first year of construction — a temporary site in Bowie. Construction of the building was managed through a new process called alternative construction financing, a form of public-private partnership that was designed to accelerate the building of new schools.

The new school building will eventually serve more than just middle school students. HMS will soon open a wellness center that will provide some health care services to the community.

 

Matt Leviss is an intern with the Hyattsville Life & Times.