Prince George’s Co. students, staff weigh in on plan to consolidate alternative schools

Vivian Sandoval, a graduate of one of Prince George’s County’s five alternative high schools, says attending the program at Community Based Classroom High School in Bladensburg, Maryland, saved her life.

In tearful testimony, Sandoval told board members she now has an associate degree and works as an accountant at a law firm. She’s in the process of buying her own home.

“Without Community Based Classroom, the life I have now would not exist,” she told board members Thursday.

Under the FY 2023 proposed school budget, the allocations for two schools, Tall Oaks and CBC, were cut. As part of what’s referred to as a “redesign” in budget documents, the five alternative schools would be consolidated into two high schools and a middle school.

Sandoval said when she first started attending CBC, her life “was a mess.” She already had one daughter and was pregnant with her second child when she enrolled.

“CBC took the time to work with me and my daughter,” Sandoval said.

When she had trouble getting transportation, the school helped out, she said. If she missed a class, she got a visit from a staff member at her home. “They refused to give up on me.”

Zena Whitworth, an English teacher at CBC, said the school is called the “second chances high school,” created to help students ages 16-21 gain the credits they need to graduate.

Students at CBC have experienced a number of challenges before enrolling, Whitworth said.

“You know this is a kid who probably went ninth and 10th grade and messed up after that. Or, they messed up in their ninth- and 10th-grade years, finally got it together in 11th and 12th and then they realized” that they don’t have enough credits Whitworth said.

By the time they get to CBC, students are highly motivated.

“We have a 95% graduation rate. We have a 93% attendance rate, and 100% of the students are thriving,” despite past challenges said, Whitworth.

Dr. Monica Goldson, CEO for Prince George’s County schools, is proposing a $2.6 billion budget for FY 2023.

According to a Prince George’s County schools statement on the budget released in December, the budget reflects the Board of Education’s priorities and “addresses strategies for closing funding shortfalls based on the nearly 9,000-student gap in projected and actual enrollment.”

A Prince George’s County Public Schools’ presentation on the budget calls the move to consolidate the five schools “critical” because it will “enhance student connections to comprehensive schools.” The plan would also, according to the document, save $2.5 million in general funding.

There are two more public hearings before the Board of Education, one on Feb. 3 and one on Feb. 10.

A vote on the proposed budget by the Board of Education is scheduled for Feb. 24.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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