By Sophie Gorman Oriani

On Sept. 22, the Prince George’s County Board of Education voted unanimously in support of a second round of schools to be rebuilt using alternative construction financing, and Hyattsville Elementary School (HES) is on the list.

The new Hyattsville Elementary School will be rebuilt on the same location, on 43rd Avenue.

The county school system has started to use alternative construction financing, or a public-private partnership, to rebuild schools. The first six county schools, including Hyattsville Middle School, to be built using this financing model are still under construction and scheduled to open for the 2023-24 school year. 

While the first set of schools focused primarily on middle schools, this group includes building four elementary schools and two K-8 schools. The county Educational Facilities Master Plan considers all six as Cycle 1 schools, meaning they are the highest priority to be replaced. 

Dozens of area parents submitted written public comments to the board in support of using alternative construction financing to rebuild these particular schools. “HES teachers, staff and administrators have done an amazing job keeping an ancient and crumbling building functional, but there are no more quick fixes or creative solutions,” wrote Sarah Weber, an HES parent.

According to the accompanying presentation, the HES building, which was built in 1935 and received additions in 1962 and 1979, has passed its useful life and should be replaced rather than renovated. It is also overcrowded, operating at 127% capacity. The new school will be rebuilt at the same location on 43rd Avenue.

Concerned HES parents mentioned sewer backups, power outages, crumbling walls and overheated classrooms in the current building. “Think about that for a second: The classroom is hot enough to make crayons melt,” wrote Laura Pillsbury from the HES PTA. Another area resident, Andrea Mueller, noted that she chose to send her daughter to a different school partly due to the age and condition of the current HES building.

While all the submitted comments supported the proposed rebuilding plan, many also pleaded for the school system to proactively choose and prepare a swing space, where students would attend during the construction phase. “We would like to avoid a repeat of what happened with Hyattsville Middle School, in which the population was split among several locations with an extremely disruptive effect,” wrote Weber.

Leigh Higgins, whose two children both attended HES, urged the board to find a way to keep all the HES students together at a nearby location during school construction. “My youngest is currently in the second location of his middle school career, and I hope that the experience of Hyattsville Middle School’s swing space debacle is a learning experience for the staff and the Board,” she wrote.

The presentation indicated that the school system will issue a request for proposals and award an agreement with a firm in the first half of 2024. The schools are all anticipated to open in time for the 2026-27 school year.