UPPER MARLBORO – The Prince George’s County Board of Education unanimously approved a $1.8 billion budget Thursday, which will take effect July 1.
In addition, the school board also approved a new cell phone policy which allows students to use their phones for educational purposes.
The updated budget includes funding for a pre-kindergarten expansion grant program, special education programs and the building of an international school.
Funding was also allotted to the school system’s capital improvements projects for the remodelling of the Crofton High School auditorium. The school system has not announced a schedule for the renovations.
During the meeting the Board also approved a feasibility study for High Point High School which recommends full modernization of the high school while making accommodations to keep the existing auditorium.
Board member Edward Burroughs III (District 8) suggested the feasibility program could be applicable to other older schools in the county in the future.
“We have a bunch of schools that have significant needs,” CEO of Prince George’s County Public Schools Kevin Maxwell said. “We have a $2.13 billion dollar backlog and each high school is an excess of $100 million of construction costs.”
According to Maxwell, the school system has a six-year plan which determines what schools will be prioritized for construction and improvements. The school system has not yet determined when High Point High School will receive a modernization upgrade.
“The reality is it’s going to cost money,” Maxwell said. “The question is where is that money going to come from?”
Along with the budget, the Board of Education also unanimously approved an updated cell phone policy. The previous policy required cell phones to remain unseen on school premises and on silent.
The new policy allows the use of cell phones and mobile devices during the school day for instructional and educational purposes. School officials may also allow phones to be used during designated free-blocks of the day, such as recess or lunch.
“I’ve shown this policy to some administrators, vice principals and principals, who, particularly in the middle schools and high schools, can’t wait to get this fast enough to be able to have the flexibility,” said Board member Peggy Higgins (District 2).
There may be further amendments to the policy, Maxwell said.
Board member Verjeana Jacobs (District 5) said the Board should receive input from the labor unions about additional changes to the policy.
“[The cell phone policy] was a collaborative effort that included our labor partners,” Jacobs said. “But because the people on the front line who have to do the implementation need to be trained and need the information I support the passing of this as long as it’s open to amendments based on feedback from the labor partners.”
Board member Beverly Anderson said she was in favor of the new policy but expressed concern over the hazards of cell phone use.
“I suggest we research this piece and possibly make cautionary statements to our students about the use of cellular devices,” said Anderson.