Goddard Montessori parents concerned about sharing Pr. George’s school building

A decision by Prince George’s County School Chief Kevin Maxwell to move Glenarden Woods Elementary School into part of the building where Robert Goddard Montessori students attend classes has drawn criticism from parents of the popular magnet program.

Anita Studgeon, the PTA president at the school, said the school district had not been forthcoming about its plans at the Seabrook school building.

Lynn McCawley, a spokesman for the school system, said a community meeting and follow-up conversations have already been held on the plan, and the district will send letters to parents before the start of school.

For several years, Robert Goddard Montessori, where 502 students were enrolled last year, has shared its building with the Robert Goddard French Immersion School.

The French immersion school, which 545 students attended last year, is scheduled to move into the old Greenbelt Middle School this year.

Studgeon said having two schools operating out of one building has had its problems in the past. She envisions even more troubles with the Montessori school sharing a building with a non-magnet school that will run on a different bell schedule. Last year, 475 students attended Glenarden Woods.

“I am thoroughly dissatisfied and disappointed in the lack of communication from your staff throughout this entire process,” Studgeon wrote to Maxwell in an e-mail. “We are not happy with the lack of transparency and we are not confident in that we are valued stakeholders in this process.”

In addition to the different start times for the schools, parents raised concerns about possible overcrowded buses, disruption in instruction and the integrity of the Montessori program.

“Glenarden Woods will always be disruptive to our program,” Studgeon said in an interview. “Unlike French immersion, we started and stopped at the same time.”

But Studgeon said she at least expected “proper assessment and effective communication” from Maxwell’s staff.

McCawley responded to inquiries about the concerns raised by the parents in an e-mail.

“A community meeting was held in July at Robert Goddard Montessori to share information with families on the Glenarden Woods Elementary School move to the former Robert Goddard French Immersion site, and provide an opportunity for parents to share their concerns with administration,” she said in the statement.

“Principals of Glenarden Woods and Robert Goddard Montessori met several times after the meeting to address parent concerns and space issues prior to the opening of school.”

She said PTSA boards from both schools recently met with administrators to share their plans for the opening of school and ensure all issues were addressed and that letters will be sent to parents prior to the opening of school to “assist in making the first few weeks of school run as smoothly as possible.”

Ovetta Wiggins covers Maryland state politics in Annapolis.

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