Pr. George’s considers adjusting some school boundaries, shifting students

The Prince George’s County school system is reviewing a proposal that would adjust the boundaries of two schools, shift some sixth-graders to middle schools and consolidate a special education program. The plan could change where more than 1,000 students will attend school in August.

“I know when you talk about boundaries it raises a level of anxiety about where is my child going to land,” Alvin Crawley, interim superintendent, told a group of parents during a recent forum. “This is a starting point in our discussions as we explore different options. . . . We want to hear from you.”

Officials in the 123,000-student system are likely to decide in coming months how they would like to reshape attendance zones for Oxon Hill High School and Accokeek Academy and whether to combine elementary and middle school students who participate in a deaf and hard of hearing program into one school.

The plan also calls for fixing school assignments for 40 students who were placed in the wrong schools based on their addresses, and it would move 350 sixth-graders from Woodmore, Ardmore, Magnolia, Hyattsville, Riverdale, Capitol Heights and John Bayne elementary schools to five area middle schools.

Johndel F. Jones-Brown, director of the department of pupil accounting and school boundaries, said the decision to relocate the sixth-graders is part of a continuing effort to place them with seventh- and eighth-graders. Eleven schools faced such changes this year.

Jones-Brown said placing the sixth-graders in middle schools began about four years ago with the intention of boosting the younger students academically. It also has resulted in less overcrowding at several elementary schools.

“We see that as a positive change,” said Ernest Moore, president of the Prince George’s County Parent Teachers Association, noting that the move allows sixth-graders to participate in specialty programs at middle schools.

Moore said this year’s changes appear to be less controversial than in years past.

In 2009, the county approved a plan that included the closure of eight schools and boundary changes for 62 other schools, affecting more than 13,000 students.

“Then we were talking about collapsing schools and closing schools; now we’re talking about a smaller group,” Moore said.

Under the plan, 400 students would leave Oxon Hill High School and 300 students will move from Accokeek Academy. The county could send the 400 Oxon Hill High School students to Potomac High School or could divide the group between Potomac, Friendly and Crossland high schools, all of which have empty seats. Oxon Hill High School, which opens in August, has capacity for 1,200 students but has more than 1,600 students enrolled.

To reduce current and future overcrowding at the Accokeek Academy, the county is looking to move sixth- to eighth-graders from the Potomac Land and Fort Washington Forest areas to Oxon Hill and Isaac Gourdine middle schools.

The county also plans to consolidate deaf and hard of hearing students from Thomas Claggett and Bladensburg elementary schools and Thomas Johnson Middle School to either William Hall Academy or Andrew Jackson Academy. Sixty students would be affected by that change.

School board member Edward Burroughs (District 8) has scheduled a community hearing for his constituents in Oxon Hill and the southern region of the county.

“I’ve heard a lot of concerns about the boundary proposals and I share in those concerns,” Burroughs said. “We’ve been presented options and if anyone has better options, we’re still listening. At the end of the day, we have to do something.”

Crawley will decide which options should be implemented and will make recommendations to the school board.

Before the board votes on Crawley’s plan, residents can weigh in on his recommendations. Public hearings have been scheduled for Jan. 30 and Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Board of Education building.

Ovetta Wiggins covers Maryland state politics in Annapolis.

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