Prince George's County officials announced plans yesterday to build two high schools by 2010 and expand three existing schools to respond to a projected surge in enrollment.
The campuses selected for expansion and renovation are DuVal High School in Lanham, Parkdale High in Riverdale and Potomac High in Oxon Hill. County and school system officials said they have not decided on sites for the two additional schools.
For months, members of the County Council had clashed with Prince George's schools chief Andre J. Hornsby over how to prepare for a demographic phenomenon known as the "baby-boom echo," in which children born to baby boomers in the late 1980s and early 1990s begin to enter high school. School officials projected that by 2006, they would be short at least 6,000 high school seats.
Hornsby had argued for expanding six high schools, rather than building new schools, saying that that solution would address the problem more quickly. Council members had pushed for building more schools and expanding only DuVal, saying they did not want to turn aging facilities into "mega" high schools with very large enrollments.
At yesterday's announcement, however, the two sides presented a united front.
"I'm glad we've come to a conclusion and we can move forward," said council member Thomas E. Dernoga (D-Laurel). "I think it provides a good long-term and short-term solution."
The compromise was reached Tuesday during a meeting among four of the nine council members, Hornsby and County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), officials said. Yesterday, Johnson, Hornsby, several council members and school board Chairman Beatrice P. Tignor (Upper Marlboro) stood together to announce the plans, which are projected to cost $129 million.
Johnson said he would reallocate about $57 million from the county budget and expects the state to take care of the rest. A funding proposal will be submitted to Maryland's Department of Education by next month, officials said.
"The county is not only willing but it's able to contribute its share," Johnson said.
Under a timeline released yesterday, most of the proposed projects will not be completed until after 2006, when the enrollment boom is expected to begin. The DuVal addition is scheduled to be finished by that year, but the other two expansions are not scheduled for completion until 2007. One of the two new high schools could open as early as 2008, and the other is not expected to be completed until 2010.
"While it's going to take a little longer, it's still the right decision for the county," Hornsby said.
In the short term, he said, many high school students will still have to sit in temporary classrooms because county high schools are too crowded. About 4,700 of the county's 40,000 high school students are accommodated in trailer classrooms. "We're going to increase trailers for a while because the [added] space is coming on slower than expected," Hornsby said.
In May, after voting down Hornsby's expansion proposal, the County Council formed a task force to look into the possibility of building additional high schools. A high school already is being built in Upper Marlboro.
Moments after the vote in May, Hornsby and his entourage of deputies walked out of the council chambers while council member Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Bowie) was talking. Council members demanded an apology from Hornsby, who said he felt no need to apologize because he left the meeting to catch an airline flight and was not making a statement by walking out.
Yesterday, even some of Hornsby's critics on the County Council sounded a conciliatory note.
But Dernoga added that key details still need to be hammered out, including where to put the new schools.