A task force studying ways to ease high school crowding has recommended that the county school system build new campuses and expand existing ones to create more space for students.
But the task force's report to the Prince George's County Council last week did little to ease the dispute between council members and school system leaders over how to deal with an expected shortage of 6,000 high school seats by 2006.
School leaders and county officials already have agreed to expand DuVal High School in Lanham at a cost of $17.4 million and build a new campus in Upper Marlboro.
But school officials maintain that expanding five other existing buildings would be the most efficient way to address the surge of high school students, while county leaders disagree with the idea of turning aging facilities into mega-high schools.
"I don't think the council is interested in all six additions," said council member Thomas E. Dernoga (D-Laurel). "I think there's a concern about how old those buildings are and the size of those buildings. We can't see adding another 600 seats to those schools without making significant renovations."
Nonetheless, the school board this month approved a construction budget that includes a proposal to renovate some of the schools it is seeking to expand.
School officials had pushed for a decision to be made by Sept. 30. But it does not look like a solution will come until the end of this month, when county schools Chief Andre J. Hornsby, council leaders and County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) are scheduled to meet on the issue.
A final proposal on the high schools and other construction projects must be presented to Maryland's Department of Education by Dec. 7.
The task force, which was created by the County Council and included school board members, County Council members, state lawmakers and community leaders, developed possible solutions in addition to the new high school in Upper Marlboro and the 600-seat Duval High expansion, both scheduled to be completed in 2006.
One solution suggested adding 200 seats to Parkdale High School in Riverdale and 400 seats to Potomac High School in Oxon Hill by 2007, and building three new high schools -- one with a capacity for 1,500 students and two for 1,800 -- by 2008. The price tag for those projects: $224 million.
Another solution would be to add 500 seats to Potomac by 2007 and 400 seats to Parkdale by 2006. Two new high schools would be built, each with a capacity for 2,000 students, by 2008. And two buildings that are now used as temporary schools, would be converted back to neighborhood schools by 2007. The price tag: $191 million.
Both solutions would require the use of temporary classrooms during the school construction.
The task force met several times over three months and held a forum last month to seek public input. Based on comments from that forum, the task force also recommended that the capacity for any new school be limited to 2,000 students. The task force also recommended that some of the school system's administrative offices be relocated out of schools to make more room for classrooms, and that those school buildings that were leased out when enrollment dropped in the 1970s be returned to the system.