UPPER MARLBORO — The Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) Board of Education approved their Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for fiscal years 2021-2026 and discussed the results of the county’s Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP) test results at their meeting on Sept. 19.

The CIP lays out school construction, renovation and modernization projects within the school system over the next six years. The FY 2021-2026 CIP includes nine major school construction projects to begin over the next few years totaling $943.7 million.

These projects include a replacement of William Wirt Middle School, a new Glenridge Area Middle School and a replacement of Cherokee Lane Elementary School set to begin before the end of 2019, a renovation and addition to the William S. Schmidt Outdoor Education Center starting in 2020, a new Suitland High School and International High School at Langley Park coming in 2021, a replacement of High Point High School in 2022 and the construction of a new Northern Area high school in 2023.

Other projects scheduled to occur later down the line include additions to Cooper Lane Elementary School, Beacon Heights Elementary School and Bladensburg Elementary School, HVAC modernization to schools such as Robert Goddard Montessori and Central High School and open space pod conversion projects for schools such as Indian Queen Elementary School and Largo High School.

The CIP also includes asbestos abatement projects, stadium upgrades, repairs for fire alarms and hydrant and security upgrades.

During a public hearing on the CIP the week before, one of the needs speakers listed was that of turf fields at several county high schools, particularly at Largo High School. The FY 2021 to 2026 CIP lists new turf fields as part of stadium upgrades in the works for  Frederick Douglass, Crossland, Surrattsville, Central and one other high school. DuVal will receive stadium upgrades.

Many parents also expressed to the board the need for a Hyattsville Elementary School and Middle School replacement as soon as possible during that public hearing. The CIP funding schedule lists the two schools as slated to start in 2024 and 2021, respectively.

Prior to the board taking a motion to approve the CIP, Board Member K. Alexander Wallace (District 7) emphasized the importance of ensuring that the community remains informed of the process going forward.

Sonya Williams (District 9) then expressed hopes that the utilization of a public-private partnership to build and renovate schools going forward will make the process much quicker and allow for equity between the northern and southern halves of the county.

“In discussions with the capital programs office, we discussed ways to deliver new schools quicker because the traditional way took 10 years from concept to opening doors,” she said. “This public-private partnership that we call ACF is going to open our schools much quicker and give us an efficient and effective way to run and manage our schools.”

Also included in the CIP is language that requires the construction process, as well as the maintenance and upkeep of the schools, to include 30% small and minority businesses, said Board of Education Vice Chair Edward Burroughs (District 8).

“Local minority businesses will benefit from this agreement for years, several years…That distinction will mean a world of difference to our local minority businesses in our county,” Burroughs said. “That’s something that this board should be proud of.”

The 2021-2026 CIP will next have to go through the county council and the county executive for approval.

Also, during the meeting, the board discussed the results of the county’s MCAP test results. Presented by Chief Academic Officer Douglas Strader, the test results of the 2018-2019 school year in English/language arts (ELA) and mathematics over time mirror that of the state where ELA scores show small increases and mathematics scores are flatlined or show decreases.

To begin addressing the shortcomings in test scores throughout the county, Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) CEO Monica Goldson described how the school system had made some revisions in how learning is assessed. These include revising mathematics curriculum documents and the creation of a school readiness guide for grades K-8 where parents can monitor the progress of their students.

Additionally, PGCPS has identified 18 “Bridge to Excellence” schools that are being closely monitored and were given additional support for academic excellence such as classroom visits and targeting professional development.

Fourteen of those 18 schools have experienced gains in either ELA and mathematics scores or both since the implementation of the program, Goldson said.

Finally, each school has created a school performance plan to guide improvements in ELA and mathematics.

During the discussion, Board Member David Murray (District 1) pointed out that the same schools are performing poorly year after year and asked what will make this year any different in increasing the academic performance of those schools.

“It’s about consistency,” said Goldson. “What we have done is we continue to keep changing. So we have to continue to stay steady with our plan that we have before us now…Let me reassure everyone here, and it is not going to happen overnight.

“It is not, but being consistent and continuing to provide that support I believe, and I know because our staff and our teachers are doing exceptionally well and are doing the work to continue to have gains over time.”

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