The Prince George's County school board decision to close 10 schools will affect nearly 3,000 students who will be transferred to other schools. Here is the transfer plan:
Lanham Elementary has 305 pupils to be transferred as follows: 33 students from New Carrollton (east of Capital Beltway) to Robert Frost Elementary School; 62 from west of Cipriano Road to Gaywood Elementary; 70 from east of Cipriano Road to Gatwood Elementary; 53 from Ardmore and Lanham Station Road Area to James McHenry Elementary; 27 from Greenbriar Apartments to Greenbelt Elementary; 60 from Glenarden Apartments (3016-3030) to Magnolia Elementary.
Brentwood Elementary has 190 pupils who will be transferred as follows: 60 from east of 38th Avenue to Thomas Stone Elementary: 100 from west of 38th Avenue to Mt. Rainier Elementary: 30 from LaSalle Park Apartments and Carole Highlands to Thomas Stone Elementary.
Ager Road Elementary has 521 students who will attend the following schools: 184 from Green Meadows to Parkway Elementary: 90 from West Hyattsville to J. Enos Ray Elementary; 82 from Kirkwood Apartments to Thomas Stone Elementary Then public hearings were held.
Task forces recommended closure of seven of the schools that were shut down by last week's voting. There were conflicts, however, within those task forces aswell as the conflicts between the task forces, the superintendent and board members.
One reason that the plan failed to relieve tensions is that figures were interpreted differently by various groups, according to several school officials.
One group would add growth, usage and cost figures one way while another task force group would add the figures and come up with a different answer.
Superintendent Feeney's decision not to include Accokeek Elementary School on his list is a good example of how figures can be read several ways.
The superintendent first included Accokeek on the closing list because he said there was a lack of usage in the small school and that the area had low potential for growth. After public bearings, however, Freeney reversed his decision because, he said, new figures indicated that potential growth south of the Accokeek area would enable the elementary school to remain open.
The problems of the school closing procedure will be studied, according to the superintendent, who said a list of recommendations will be given to the school board by his staff at the end of this month.
The closing of 10 schools followed two weeks of public hearings that brought parents to the podium with passionate and well-documented reasons why their schools should remain open.
Board members balanced those arguments with the fact that the school system is facing declining enrollment, has more than 20,000 empty classroom seats and is gearing up for a proposed budget cut by the county executive.
As each board member voted to close a school in his or her district each voiced regret. They made the school closure decision despite, "sleepless nights," "mixed deep regret," and "with tears."
At only one point in last week's board meeting did the crowd of concerned parents clearly express joy. That moment came when the decision was made to keep open Owens Elementary School in the Glassmanor area.
Glassmanor residents at the meeting were on their feet moments after school board chairman Warr threw up his hand in the tie-breaking 5-to-4 vote to keep the school open. The group of most black parents from Glassmanor feared that the board would close their school because they believed the school system had given them a bad deal from the very beginning.
This group of parents found themselves in the middle of a battle with parents from the predominantly white neighborhoods of Tor Bryan and Fort Foote eight miles away, who wanted to close the Owens Road school so that their children could be bused to a closer school. Glassmanor parents felt that their school should not have been studied for closure at all because, they said, it had 87 per cent utilization, putting it above school board standards for closure.
The Tor Bryan and Fort Foote parents, however, requested that the Owens Road area be studied for closure. A task force was created six weeks after other task forces had already started to deliberate and found that Owens Road Elementary School should not be shut down.
After that task force turned over its information to superintndent Feeney, his staff decided that Owens Road Elementary should be closed despite that task force recommendation. The superintendent cited under-utilization of schools in the Glassmanor area as parents who wanted to have their children bused to schools closer to home.
This decision by the school superintendent unified black and white Glassmanor parents. They contacted newspapers and bused themselves to board meetings and attended public hearings, in an effort to reverse the superintendent's recommendation.
Last week's decision to keep Owen Road elementary open was a tribute to the efforts of these parents, according to Roger Davis, the head of the Glassmanor PTA. "If the community had not responded we would have lost."