Residents took part in a conversation about future school boundaries in Prince George’s County, Maryland, on Wednesday, as school officials plan to accommodate an influx of students over the coming years.
More than 400 people participated in a virtual community discussion about Prince George’s County Public Schools boundaries, primarily focused on schools in the north including Hyattsville, Beltsville, Laurel and Greenbelt.
“The majority of schools in the district are either overutilized or underutilized,” said Chris Rice, planning director for WXY Studio, a consulting company on the project.
Rice reported that around 38% of schools in the county are rated as underutilized, and 39% as overutilized.
Most of the schools in the northern areas of the Prince George’s County are also overcrowded, the study found, with middle schools being the hardest hit.
The school system grew rapidly over the last decade, with 11,000 students added since 2014 and an additional 7,000 students expected by 2024.
The district has 12 planned projects, including new school construction and additions to existing schools, which will add 9,000 new seats for students by 2026. The new and expanded school projects to alleviate capacity constraints will require school boundaries to be redrawn.
County officials have hosted four public meetings on the plan so far this month — one for the south area, one on the central area, one on the northern area, as well as one for Spanish language speakers. An additional session for residents who speak Spanish is slated for Jan. 27.
The school system plans to use feedback from the meetings to draft three redistricting plans by March. New boundaries would go into effect for the 2022 to 2023 school year.
Danielle, a mother of two students, including one that attends Dr. Henry A Wise Jr. High School in Upper Marlboro, said she moved to the area for its education system as it currently stands and doesn’t want to see it adjusted.
“I moved to a certain area, paid for certain type of environment — my students can go to a certain particular type of school,” she said. “And I don’t want the boundaries to be changed.”
Beth teaches in neighboring D.C. and has a daughter who will be in kindergarten next fall. She said during the meeting she is concerned that changing the boundaries could lead to residents reconsidering where they live.
“You want people to be proud of their neighborhood school,” she told the meeting.