ADELPHI — Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) staff held a community meeting to share with parents, students and nearby residents updates on the renovation of Cherokee Lane Elementary School on Aug. 13.
During the meeting, the engineering team at Gilbert Architects and PGCPS staff members shared with the community the proposed construction timeline for the new Cherokee Lane Elementary School, access to the school site and design concepts as well as information on parking and site improvements to the nearby Buck Lodge Middle School.
“The Cherokee Lane project is a very important project for the school system to be able to relieve our capacity issues here in the Adelphi community,” said PGCPS Planner Ron Kauffman. “It is going to start a series of moves throughout the system up here so we can start taking advantage of our property sizes so that we can get larger schools on our school sites.”
Overcrowding has been a significant issue in the northern section of the county. With the reconstruction of Cherokee Lane as part of cycle one in the PGCPS Educational Facilities Master Plan, as well as the PGCPS Board of Education’s approved Adelphi Area Schools Over-Enrollment Relief Plan, it is just one step in relieving the ongoing problem that plagues the area.
“The new Cherokee Lane is a critical first step in that because we will then be able to reduce overcrowding,” said PGCPS Board of Education Member Pamela Boozer-Strother (District 3). The new Cherokee Lane will have an 800-seat capacity, taking 300 students from Adelphi Elementary School and 50 from Mary Harris “Mother” Jones Elementary School, she said. “It’s a critical first step of right-sizing Adelphi Elementary.”
In addition to replacing Cherokee Lane Elementary School, the Adelphi Area Schools Over-Enrollment Relief Plan aims to restore and expand Adelphi Elementary School in the Judith P. Hoyer Family Learning Center building, expand and convert the existing Adelphi Elementary School into the new Adelphi Middle School and construct a new Adelphi Area High School on the old Cherokee Lane site.
The new Adelphi Area High School to be built on the original 22-acre Cherokee Lane site will relieve overcrowding at High Point, Northwestern and Parkdale High Schools.
In the end, the Over-Enrollment Relief Plan aims to add 503 elementary school seats, 1,200 middle school seats and 2,000 high school seats.
“This is critical. We are in need of 5,000 seats in this area,” said County Councilmember Deni Taveras (District 2). “The need to control all those schools where most of our schools in this region are over 200% overcrowded, I mean, we have to take action. We can no longer wait. We can no longer sit by.”
The construction of Cherokee Lane Elementary School will be carried out in three phases. Phase one will consist of a partial construction of Cherokee Lane. As part of this phase, 8% of the construction will take place offsite and will take place from November 2019 to May 2020. Additionally, the development of the building foundation and other onsite construction will take place from February 2020 to October 2020.
Phase two, which is projected to last from May 2021 to August 2021, will consist of the implementation of the softball, baseball and multipurpose fields and improvement to parking at Buck Lodge Middle School which includes bus access for both schools. A restoration project for the stream that sits next to Cherokee Lane will last from May 2021 to December 2021.
Finally, phase three will be the design, engineering and construction of an extra access lane into both of the schools from Metzerott Road, which is projected to be completed by August 2022. The planning staff has studied two options where either one or two access roads would lead into the schools. Although a definite solution has not been chosen, they said one road would be better for future development.
Of the total construction of Cherokee Lane, 80% of it will be manufactured offsite. It will be created at a separate manufacturing facility then will be separated, put on a truck, shipped to the site of the school and set on a new foundation followed by the installation of the outside finish.
According to Gilbert Architects Studio Director Scott Adams, this method helps to expedite the process because the contractors are able to do multiple things at one time. Most of the school can be constructed in a controlled environment without having to deal with factors like the weather, and it is much cheaper.
Traffic was one of the major concerns brought up by residents at the meeting. With streets that are already narrow, the existing traffic congestion on Buck Lodge Terrace and other activities such as the nearby park that brings in more people. A small group of residents were adamant that the area cannot handle a larger school.