BY REBECCA BENNETT — Updated on Sept. 5 at 9:49 a.m. with bus problems.  Prince George’s County officials visited several Hyattsville public schools as students headed back to class for the 2015-16 school year.  According to Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), the school system enrolled nearly 2,000 new students, bringing the total number of students to 129,000.

“Our schools have steadily improved in both the performance and outcomes over the last five years.  This improvement is due to our unwavering focus on raising the bar for our students, while supporting our teachers and administrators as much as possible,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, III.

PGCPS Chief Executive Officer Dr. Kevin Maxwell visited both Edward M. Felegy Elementary School and Hyattsville Middle School (HMS) during the first week.

Felegy Elementary School, which opened last year, was designed as an arts integration school, said John Ceschini, a PGCPS arts integration officer.  While they teach subjects like, dance, media arts and drama at Felegy, Ceschini said that it’s a collaborative process between classroom teachers and resources teachers.

“The arts are hands on, they are engaging.  They get kids involved in the curriculum,”Ceschini said.  “Arts for arts sake, but also arts to teach other subjects.”

Jacky Lengenfelder, a teacher at Felegy Elementary School, explained to Dr. Maxwell how students were using the arts to learn science.  Lengenfelder said she was using copper tape on a classroom board to light up what part of the brain they were using on a given day.

Lengenfelder also said fourth grade students were using the arts to build a robot hand with string.  The challenge that day was trying to get the hand to pick up a ball, which was designed to show students that they needed to think about other parts of the hand, not just the fingers.

“If they lay in bed tonight and go like this [open and close their hand], I’ve succeeded,” Lengenfelder said. “It means that they are thinking what they can do next to make this thing grab.”

Several public schools started the year with new principals.  Dr. Thornton Boone was named interim principal at HMS and is awaiting confirmation.  Bernadette Ortiz-Brewster was appointed in June as principal of College Park Academy, PGCPS said.

According to PGCPS, Northwestern High School is one of 10 high schools with athletic improvements this year as a result of the school system’s capital improvement program, which will have a new rubberized running track.  Additionally, students in 40 elementary schools and early childhood centers will see new playground sets when they return to school.

“We have tried to lay a foundation for success which appears to be yielding dividends.  I am proud of what we have accomplished under the leadership of Dr. Kevin Maxwell and as embarks upon his third school year, I am confident that PGCPS will continue to build on the great strides we have made thus far,” Baker said.

Several Hyattsville families took to Facebook to complain about school buses not running on time. In response to local media reports about busing issues, PGCPS Director of Transportation Lori Carter-Evans said the school system has made nearly 70,000 adjustments since mid-August.

“While the overwhelming majority of our trips are made safely and on time, we know that recently, as drivers, parents and students get to know their stops and times, problems have occurred,” Carter-Evans said.

Anyone with transportation problems should call 301.952.6570.