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School board seeks opinions on repurposing closed schools


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Published on: Wednesday, September 16, 2009

By Nancy Royden

School districts often use old schools for different purposes, such as alternative schools, specialized schools, preschool centers, art studio space and a host of other uses.

The Prince George’s County Public School system is no exception in its plan for some of its facilities.

The district has been hosting meetings in previously used schools to gather feedback from communities to see how the residents would like the schools to be utilized. They have been held at John Carroll Elementary School in Landover, Middleton Valley Elementary School in Temple Hills, John E. Howard Elementary School in Capitol Heights and Morningside Elementary School in Suitland.

Other meetings are planned Sept. 17 at Berkshire Elementary School in District Heights and G. Gardner Shugart Middle School in Temple Hills.

On Sept. 21, meetings are slated at Matthew Henson Elementary School in Landover and Owens Road Elementary School in Oxon Hill.

Tanzi West Barbour, spokeswoman for PGPS, said the public’s input is important regarding the old school buildings.

“Parents and students, school-based staff, elected officials, local organizations and businesses, and members of the public are urged to participate in the community meeting process. Input on the use of closed school buildings will help inform the administration about the community’s interests in these facilities which may include school choice program options, other educational programs or alternative uses,” she said in a media release.

In information given to meeting attendees, the district’s leaders express their belief that a community-based decision will lead to the best solution for the county as a whole.

In its written presentation to parents and others, the district broaches the idea of using schools for administrative offices, with the added benefit of cost savings.

It is also conceivable the district can establish leases with public agencies with similar goals of education and public service. Examples include a boys’ and girls’ clubs and special education groups.

“As part of our boundary review last year, eight schools were closed. As part of the decision, the district is going back into the communities of these schools to talk about what they would like to see in these buildings by way of specialty programming or other uses,” Barbour said. “Some suggestions thus far have been language immersion schools, parent academies, more science and tech schools, etc. It’s a wonderful opportunity to capture community engagement with the district,” she said.

Facility use proposals are due Oct. 13 and recommendations from a facilities use committee are expected to be sent Oct. 27 to Superintendent William R. Hite Jr.

 People who would like to comment during a meeting are asked to sign up by calling 301-952-6539 or register by using the district’s Web site, www1.pgcps.org. All registrations must be received by noon on the date of the prospective meeting. Spanish language interpretation will also be available during the meetings.

The meetings will be replayed on Comcast Channel 96 and Verizon Channel 38. Footage may also be viewed on the district’s Web site.

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