Proposed new school boundaries up for Nov. 10 vote
BY SOPHIE GORMAN ORIANI
It’s not just electoral districts that are being redrawn — local school boundaries are changing, too. Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) is nearly done with the process of choosing new boundaries for neighborhood schools across the county.
According to the school boundary initiative website, the school system has seen rapid enrollment growth and has struggled to balance enrollment, with some schools overenrolled while others have empty seats. Moreover, as schools are expanded or as new schools are built, boundaries need to change to take account of the newly built seats. The last district-wide boundary study was in 2008.
The process, which started in January 2021, involved WXY Studio, an urban design, planning and architectural consulting firm. WXY Studio led a team of consultants and developed three draft scenarios with different top priorities, then sought feedback from the community on the pros and cons of each of the three scenarios.
At their May 16 meeting, the Hyattsville City Council voted to send a letter to county schools CEO Monica Goldson, as well as to the PGCPS Board of Education, expressing their concerns that some potential scenarios resulted in Hyattsville students not attending Hyattsville schools.
After hearing feedback from parents, teachers and other community members, the school system next considered a modified version of the second scenario, which focused on improving school utilization across the county. This scenario had the highest number of respondents who were strongly satisfied with the proposed boundaries, as well as the lowest number who were strongly dissatisfied.
The proposed new boundaries leave most Hyattsville students unaffected. Approximately 400 additional students from Nicholas Orem and William Wirt middle schools will be added to Hyattsville Middle School over the next three years. The new Hyattsville Middle is currently being rebuilt to a capacity of 1,200 students, approximately 300 more than the old building’s capacity, and is scheduled to be finished and open before these new students join.
The school board held two public hearings to solicit feedback from the public on the final proposed boundaries. Most of the comments were from parents opposed to the closure of Pointer Ridge Elementary School in South Bowie. Others expressed concern about boundary changes that affected only a few current students, such as a boundary that would move four elementary students living east of Route 1 and south of Madison Street from Hyattsville Elementary School to Riverdale Elementary School.
Other county parents, concerned that changing schools would have a negative impact on their children, especially coming on the heels of the pandemic, asked that the boundary changes be postponed, or that children be grandfathered into the school they currently attend.
On Oct. 27, the school board approved the first reading of the proposed boundaries without discussion.
After taking into account public input, Goldson released the final recommendations on Nov. 2. The recommendations delayed the closing of Pointer Ridge and Concord elementary schools and allowed students entering their last year at a school to remain at that school for an additional year. (Siblings of those students can also stay at the school for one year; parents must provide transportation.) Goldson also eliminated the boundary changes that would have affected fewer than 20 students, which includes the four students who would have been moved from Hyattsville Elementary to Riverdale.
The second reading and the vote to approve the new boundaries will be held on Nov. 10.
The new boundaries will be phased in over three school years, starting during the 2023-24 school year.
To see if your child’s assigned school might change, go to wxyplanning.com/pgcps-boundary-tool-phase2.