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High Road School relocates to new home in Largo

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Photo by Tauren Dyson. High Road student Fred Coleman, 16, won the high school spelling bee Friday, Dec. 14, at the school's new location in Largo.

Photo by Tauren Dyson. High Road student Fred Coleman, 16, won the high school spelling bee Friday, Dec. 14, at the school's new location in Largo.

Published on: Wednesday, December 19, 2012

By Tauren Dyson

When Fred Coleman won the high school spelling bee at the High Road School of Prince George’s County in Largo last Friday, he obviously felt good about the victory, but he was also happy about the environment in which he did it. He won spelling the word “privilege.”

“It’s way different from public school, but at the same time, … it’s a good school,” said the 10th grader, explaining how he excels in his new surroundings. “To be honest, I’d rather have a small class because they’re a lot of negative people out there, and I don’t want a lot of negative people around me.”

Keith White, High Road School regional director, said, “That small class size gives them a lot of one-on-one attention.”

Currently, there are four High Road Schools, which cater to school age children who are challenged with emotional and learning disabilities, in Prince George’s County.

As Fred delivered high fives to teachers and classmates after his victory, he did so in a newer building, replete with new amenities, following the school’s late October relocation from its previous space in Capitol Heights. There, things were drab and old. Now, he and the 70 other elementary, middle and high school students have a fresher, more vibrant home, equipped with an indoor basketball hoop.

“We wanted to have a new facility with a gym area,” White said. “We wanted to have some indoor recreation area, as well as an outdoor one.”

The gym serves an incentive for students to behave during class — a task that can prove difficult for children who struggle to pay attention from moment to moment.

All of the children at High Road have a history of academic and behavioral problems. They come from public schools scattered throughout Prince George’s County and the District, and are referred to schools such as High Road when the student’s behavior spiral out of control.

“Prince George’s County has been sending students to High Road programs for well over 10 years,” said Shirley Conley, Prince George’s County Public Schools spokeswoman. “We’ve seen our students making remarkable gains.”

Once at High Road, the students demonstrate that they can stay on task with assignments, follow directions, remain in their assigned areas, demonstrate respect, and use appropriate language. After those goals are met they earn the privilege of engaging in fun activities, such as playing basketball.

Conley said the Prince George’s public school system annually places approximately 850 to 900 students at High Road Schools or similar programs throughout the region.

While the goal of High Road is to help the students transition back to public schools, many remain at High Road until graduation.

Carmen McGinnis, the director of High Road School of Prince George’s County in Largo, has been with the company for 12 years. In that time, she boasts a 95 percent graduation rate. And that’s the best time of the year for her.

“It is very challenging, and very stressful,” McGinnis said. “But when you see a child succeed, it makes it all worth” the challenges and stress.

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