UPPER MARLBORO – As the Adelphi Hills Community Association gears up to strengthen its campaign against building a new middle school at the Mary Harris Mother Jones Elementary School site, Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) prepares to address stormwater issues at the school.
Over the past two months, the residents in the neighborhood surrounding the Mother Jones school have avidly protested against the school system building a new middle school on the same site, for a variety of reasons.
“We have previously communicated our objections to the Adelphi Road site to Councilwoman (Deni) Taveras, Sen. Jim Rosapepe, and Del. (Joseline) Pena-Melnyk: we have asked them to reject the Adelphi Road site and reopen site selection,” the community association board wrote in a statement.
At a meeting last month, the association and neighbors from surrounding areas met with Taveras and school board members Dinora Hernandez and Mary Kingston Roche to talk about the site. During that meeting, residents gave heated testimony about the hardships the community has faced due to the Mother Jones school and the issues it has allegedly created.
Roche carried those testimonies with her to the board of education meeting on Jan. 5, where the legislative body was taking up another site selection issue that is unrelated to the middle school site. The middle school site selection occurred in May 2016, with the Prince George’s County Board of Education approving two sites for the two new schools, which were whittled down by school staff.
“I just wanted to express my concern about the stormwater management issue at this location,” Kingston Roche said. “The community feels that the school is not being kept up adequately to deal with the stormwater management issue. There is a sinkhole in one of the field and it’s unsafe.”
The board member wanted to know what assurances school staff had that these issues would be looked at and addressed before any possible new construction on the site.
Elizabeth Chaisson, a planner with PGCPS, said the school system is in the process of formulating an active response to the complaints and concerns raised by the community.
“We are here and willing to work with them on this,” she said. “We see it as an opportunity, actually, because we’re about to develop the middle school. So we have the opportunity to come back and correct past wrongs.”
Kevin Maxwell, chief executive officer of PGCPS, said the school system is not admitting fault in the stormwater issues. He said he would rather view the discussion as a willingness to address the issue rather than one of assigning blame.
Chaisson agreed and said PGCPS built the Mother Jones site up to the regulations at the time. Since then, the mandatory regulations for stormwater retrofitting have changed and the site needs to be updated.
“The new regulations are more stringent, so we expect to have better stormwater regulations this time around,” she said. “We were permitted, we did everything by code, but they’re finding that there’s some issues and this could be corrected.”
Kingston Roche agreed and said she believes the school should take the issues at the Mother Jones site and learn from them.
“I think we can use lessons learned from Mary Harris Mother Jones to inform how we proactively address this,” Kingston Roche said.