Prince George's County Schools Superintendent John A. Murphy is considering a measure to encourage school desegregation by allowing students to attend extended-day schools near their parents' workplaces.
The proposal, which would supplement the county's busing plan, may be submitted this winter to the federal court that oversees implementation of Prince George's school desegregation order, Murphy said yesterday. In an interview with Washington Post editors and reporters, Murphy said he believed that by providing before- and after-school programs for elementary school children with working parents, families could be attracted to schools outside their neighborhoods, further integrating county schools.
The "work-place" schools, as Murphy calls them, would be located near major employment centers and in areas needing further desegregation, he said. As a North Carolina school superintendent, Murphy established a similar afterschool day-care program linked to a desegregation plan.
The "work-place" schools "are designed to make integration more palatable," Murphy said. They would be the first schools in this area to offer extended day care aimed at desegregation, he said.
Murphy's proposal comes as the county continues to struggle with the decade-old controversy over school desegregation. The Board of Education's appeal of a 1983 federal court desegregation order is scheduled for argument tomorrow before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Baltimore.
Also on the horizon is an expert panel's desegregation report due Feb. 1 before U.S. District Judge Frank A. Kaufman.
That panel, appointed by Kaufman and headed by Robert L. Green, president of the University of the District of Columbia, is expected to make recommendations on how to bring the county's schools within racial guidelines established by the court.
Murphy yesterday expressed concern that, other than in an initial meeting, he had not been contacted by Green. "I haven't heard a thing since" the initial meeting, Murphy said. "Green never contacted us, which concerns me."
Green could not be reached for comment, but another expert on the panel said the group had purposely avoided working closely with either the Prince George's schools or the county NAACP, which filed the lawsuit against the schools.
Murphy has established a committee of educators and community members to study his "work-place" school proposal. If acceptable to Murphy and the school board, the plan could be offered to Judge Kaufman after Feb. 1 as a counter-proposal to the expert panel's recommendation, unless the panel suggests a similar solution, Murphy said.
The superintendent said that a survey conducted by the school system indicated that parents of 15,000 students were interested in sending their children to such schools.
Murphy is also asking employers to allow workers time off to visit and volunteer in the schools.
The schools would be operated in existing facilities, but sites have not been chosen. Schools in major employment centers, such as Greenbelt and New Carrollton, as well as those on routes into the District, would be considered, according to schools spokesman Brian J. Porter.
Robert L. Crain, a member of Green's panel and a desegregation expert at Johns Hopkins University, said magnet schools have been used successfully as an integration tool elsewhere in the country. "It would probably be impossible to desegregate Prince George's County totally with magnet schools just because of the sheer numbers involved," Crain said. "But it is definitely the case that magnet schools are helpful."