Prince George's school officials have completed the first phase of testing schools for lead contamination.
In the past two months, officials have tested 2,608 of the water fountains most accessible to students at all of its schools. Of those examined, 256 fixtures were found to have lead levels exceeding the federal standard of 20 parts per billion and were immediately shut off, schools chief Andre J. Hornsby announced this week.
Eighty-eight of the samples that exceeded the federal standard had lead levels between 20 parts per billion and 30 parts per billion. Thirty-one of the samples had levels above 150 parts per billion. At least 90 schools have been found to have lead contamination, according to the school system's Web site.
The school system will begin the second phase of testing next month and complete it before students return for the new school year in August, Hornsby said. That phase will involve testing any other fountains or sinks that students could use.
The school system will repair those fixtures that were found to have lead, and bottled water will be made available to students at the most affected schools, Hornsby said. Building administrators will continue to run their faucets on a regular basis to help flush out the contamination.
The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission tested the schools free. Schools in neighboring counties such as Montgomery have also found lead in their water.
School-by-school testing results should be available this week on the school system's Web site at www.pgcps.org.
Board Redraws Boundaries
The Prince George's County school board voted unanimously last week to redraw boundaries to relieve crowding at several schools.
The changes, which will go into effect in August, are part of a three-year plan to revise attendance zones because of population growth.
School officials said they have to make extensive boundary changes and shift students to other schools because 2,367 additional dwelling units have been built in the county since 2000, exacerbating an already vexing school crowding problem.
In addition, two new elementary schools are set to open in August: Panorama Elementary in Temple Hills and Port Towns Elementary in Bladensburg.
"Making a boundary change is not easy," schools chief Andre J. Hornsby said at last week's board meeting. "These are not easy decisions for any community to take."
Dozens of parents have turned out in recent months at public hearings and school board meetings to oppose some of the boundary change proposals. The most controversial proposal approved by the school board was the movement of about 66 rising ninth-graders who live in the Marleigh/Holmehurstarea from Bowie High School to DuVal High School in Lanham.
Several parents said they did not want their children going to DuVal High because its students for years have posted lower standardized test scores. Current Bowie High students would not be affected by the change. School board members said they would try to improve academics at DuVal High. The school is already set to go through a cosmetic change; an addition is scheduled to be completed by 2006.
"It's unfortunate," said Lawrence Dixon, a parent who lives in the Holmehurst area. "Children should have access to equal quality of education. DuVal is far below the quality of Bowie High."
"I feel the board is here to service, and they did a great disservice to our children," said Kym Hogan, another parent.
School board members said severe crowding has forced them to make some unpopular choices.
Some schools have hundreds of extra students while others have open seats. For example, Bladensburg High School, which is currently being housed at the Bel Air annex in Bowie until a new facility is built, is 875 students over capacity, while Fairmont Heights High School in Capitol Heights has 60 fewer students than its capacity. The number of students a building can hold is set by the state.
Bowie High is 824 students over capacity this school year; DuVal has 385 spaces open.
"I know this is not an easy decision and we don't take it lightly, " school board member Dean Sirjue (Bowie) said before casting his vote.
The school board also voted to move sixth-graders from Perrywood Elementary to Kettering Middle School, both in Upper Marlboro; Samuel Chase Elementary to Thurgood G. Marshall Middle, both in Temple Hills; and Fort Washington Forest Elementary in Fort Washington to Eugene Burroughs Middle Accokeek.
School officials have been redrawing boundaries for years in an effort to return students to their neighborhood schools. Until 1998, students were bused across the county for desegregation. But that year, a federal judge ruled that cross-county busing was no longer needed. About 14,000 students have been affected by boundary changes since 1998.
The school board also voted to move students in the following communities:
* Kentland area from Bladensburg High to Fairmont Heights High.
* French Immersion South from Shadyside Elementary in Suitland to John Hanson Montessori School in Oxon Hill.
* Wheeler Hills area from Barnaby Manor Elementary in Oxon Hill to Panorama Elementary.
* Iverson area from Hillcrest Heights Elementary in Temple Hills to Panorama Elementary.
* Green Valley Elementary in Temple Hills to Panorama Elementary.
* Good Hope area from J. Frank Dent Elementary in Fort Washington to Overlook Elementary in Temple Hills.
* Good Hope area from Owens Road Elementary in Oxon Hill to Overlook Elementary.
* Rogers Heights to Port Towns Elementary.