UPPER MARLBORO — Enrollment in Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) during the 2019-2020 school year has seen its largest single-year increase in 15 years.

With schools already seeing immense overcrowding, the school system is putting forward solutions to address its large number of students.

PGCPS announced on Oct. 17 that enrollment this year is already up by about 4,000 students, which puts the total number of students in the school district at an estimated 136,600 students from last year’s 132,636 students. Since the 2012-2013 school year, enrollment has increased by a total of 13,000 students.

“It’s wonderful to see more families are returning to Prince George’s County public school system. We have tremendous educators and a quality curriculum,” said County Executive Angela Alsobrooks. “By continuing to offer high-quality educational opportunities, our great county will continue to prosper.”

Out of that 136,600 students, there has been a growth of almost 700 elementary school students, 1,500 middle school students and over 1,250 high school students since the previous school year.

Enrollment in PGCPS has been growing steadily and current figures reflect a seven-year growth trend. The growth comes despite original projections before the first day of school this August showing a 200-student dip in enrollment. According to PGCPS, enrollment within the school system generally swells throughout the year because of high student mobility.

“This news is a welcome vote of confidence in the incredible work of our school system, teachers, principals and support staff,” said PGCPS CEO Monica Goldson. “We are focused on ensuring that students and families receive the highest quality teaching and leadership at every school. This is why I’m proud to lead this amazing school district.”

While the increase in enrollment indicates signs of increased confidence in PGCPS, issues with overcrowding will continue to be a problem if not addressed.

According to the PGCPS Educational Facilities Master Plan (EFMP), which details facility needs throughout the school system and lays out plans for constructing new schools and updating current schools, overcrowding is especially a concern in the northern part of the county.

All high schools in the northern region are expected to well-exceed the recommended State Rated Capacity (SRC) by 2026 and the PGCPS preferred utilization guidelines, which range from 80-95% capacity. The schools are at 95% utilization and currently need 4,000 seats across all seven northern region high schools.

Overutilization is also a problem within the northern region’s middle and elementary schools, as many of them are also expected to exceed the SRC by 2026. Overutilization is “preventing the realignment of the sixth grades, exacerbating similar overutilization at the feeder elementary schools,” the EFMP says. Additionally, many of the schools are old and need to be rebuilt.

In the central and southern regions of the county, overutilization is not as severe, according to the EFMP. However, some of those schools find themselves in the same place as northern region schools where overuse needs to be addressed.

Goldson has put forward a couple of different solutions to address the overutilization of schools. One of them is the expansion of pre-K through the Blueprint for PGCPS.

With the $53 million in funding provided through Kirwan Commission legislation, the Blueprint for PGCPS provides resources in areas such as mental health services and teacher compensation. The funding helped the school system bring in 200 pre-K slots starting in the 2019-2020 school year.

Additionally, PGCPS will be building more schools through a public-private partnership. Through the new funding program, they will be renovating 30 schools over the next 30 years and will invest $25-30 million a year in school construction funds.

“When families choose Prince George’s County Public Schools, they know their children will receive a high-quality education that prepares them for higher education, the workplace and life beyond the schoolhouse doors,” Goldson said.

Board of Education Chair Alvin Thornton also pointed out how essential Kirwan Commission funding will be in helping the school system address these issues as well.

“There is an urgent need for increased funding to support continuing and new students,” Thornton said. “And we must provide full funding of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence (Kirwan Commission) recommendations during the 2020 General Assembly session with a formula that ensures adequacy and equity.”

The Kirwan Commission develops major funding and policy reforms to improve the quality of education throughout Maryland. The 13-member commission focuses on improving aspects of education such as poverty, early childhood education, college and career readiness and more. During this year’s legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Act, which distributes $1 billion in funding to Maryland’s school districts over the next two years.

In the 2020 legislative session, the Kirwan Commission is expected to bring the General Assembly a 10-year funding formula to improve Maryland’s schools.

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