Implementing a court-appointed panel's recommendations to fully desegregate Prince George's public schools would cost nearly $65 million, the county's school board said in documents filed yesterday in federal court.
Busing called for in the panel's report would cost $9.8 million, almost $6 million of which would become an annual expense, the documents said.
There would also be a one-time cost of about $55 million to reopen former school buildings and to add classrooms to some currently used schools in order to accommodate increased enrollment, according to the board.
"We don't have the money," said school spokesman Brian J. Porter. "If we had to place that much money in one place and at one time, it would cripple us."
Robert L. Green, president of the University of the District of Columbia and head of the panel, said he had not seen the board's analysis, but he noted that busing has been expensive for school systems across the country. Referring to the price tag put by the board on the panel's busing recommendations, Green said, "If $9 million will respond to the court's order in a fair and even-handed way, then that's something we need to acknowledge and search for the funds . . . . "
The board's response to the so-called Green report was submitted in Baltimore to U.S. District Court Judge Frank A. Kaufman, who is overseeing the county's desegregation efforts.
The panel's controversial recommendations, submitted to Kaufman last month, called for increasing the number of students bused, closing as many as 34 elementary and six middle schools and pairing several others.
In its response to the Green Report, the board told Kaufman it would submit by May 13 an alternative proposal, expected to entail the creation of magnet schools to achieve desegregation. Kaufman, in a memo written yesterday, said he would await the proposal and schedule a hearing for June 7.
Thomas Newman, a spokesman for the county NAACP, which filed the lawsuit against the county schools, called the board's response a "stalling action" and said the board had "magnified the extremes" in the Green report.
"I'm disappointed that staff time and effort and energy was utilized to do a rebuttal of the Green Report rather than to use those resources to come up with an alternative, a desegregation plan," said Newman.
In its response, the board said it did not disagree with the panel on at least one point: the 44,000 students who live in integrated communities, where 30 to 85 percent of the public school enrollment is black, should not be bused out of their neighborhoods.
But in addition to cost, the board's response contained a litany of other criticisms about the Green recommendations.
The board complained that implementing the recommendations could result in the reassignment of more than 29,000 students and increase the travel time for many.
The Green report suggested reopening some schools that have been sold and others that are in poor physical condition, while recommending that some of the newer schools be closed, according to the board.
The board also said that pairing schools, as proposed, is educationally unsound and could raise practical problems for parents and educators.