Prince George’s Co. school board approves consolidating alternative schools

Prince George’s County Public Schools narrowly voted Thursday to consolidate the district’s five alternative schools in Maryland.

The move comes amid protests from the community, with many begging the board to keep the schools open for at-risk students who struggle with traditional schools.

The allocation for Community Based Classroom in Bladensburg will be cut and students will be moved to the newly consolidated Tall Oaks or Croom high schools.

Schools CEO Monica Goldson said the move will expand services, give the students better resources and remove them from the state’s rating list.

The decision now moves to the Prince George’s County Council for approval.

“Closing our school is like taking away a safe space for us,” said Symphone Gibson, a senior at CBC.

Alternative schools aim to help students who struggle in traditional classroom settings. During a board meeting last month, Zena Whitworth, an English teacher at CBC, said the school is called the “second chances high school,” created to help students aged 16-21 gain the credits they need to graduate.

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

Despite high graduation rates, many of the schools are ranked among the worst in the state.

According to PGCPS, under the consolidation plan, classroom sizes will remain small, with a maximum number of 15 students per class.

But Gibson and other CBC students at a Thursday rally outside the Sasser Administration Building in Upper Marlboro said it wasn’t about class size, it was about future students not having the opportunity to experience what they call “a loving community.”

“Out of all the schools that I have been to, this is the best school that I’ve ever gotten,” said CBC senior Britany Garcia Cruz.

One of the rally organizers, Rachel Sherman, is a product of the alternative school system. She dropped out of high school when she was 16. She’s now working on her second doctorate.

“When you see them try to defund and shut down programs like this you are saying to these at-risk and disadvantaged students that they don’t matter and we do,” Sherman said.

Lauren Hamilton

Lauren Hamilton is an Associate Producer at WTOP and a graduate of the University of Maryland. She enjoys covering the intersection of arts, culture and social justice in local communities. She began as an intern with WTOP in the summer of 2021.

Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin is an anchor/reporter for WTOP. She started her career in New York City as a local TV reporter and has since covered foreign affairs and national politics as a Washington correspondent. She also anchored a nightly news show for an international network.

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