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Prince George’s asks for state money to repair schools

Prince George’s County is asking the state for $97.9 million next year to help build, renovate and repair some of the school system’s oldest buildings.

The amount is $40.5 million more than the county asked for last year, an indication of the growing need to address the county’s aging infrastructure. Last year, the school system received $35.8 million from the state.

The County Council approved the Board of Education’s request Tuesday. Council members opted to sign off on the school board’s request rather than accept modifications made by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), who reduced the amount by $12.7 million.

The school board also is asking for $158.3 million from the county to fund its Capital Improvement Program next year.

Christian Rhodes, the education liaison for Baker, said the county executive wants to improve conditions at the schools across the county and especially those located in inner Beltway communities, which his administration has targeted for improvements.

“This speaks to the quality of education,” Rhodes said. “This is where our students learn and we need to provide the learning environment they deserve regardless of where they live.”

A 2008 assessment of the county’s schools found that the average age of the school system’s 184 facilities is more than 43 years and “facing the end of their useful life.”

The study also said the county needs $2.82 billion to address capital needs over the next decade.

Under the proposal, the money would be used to help pay for a replacement school for Fairmont Heights High. It would also use $16.7 million for major renovations at Eugene Burroughs Middle School in Accokeek; $6 million to help accommodate special education students at Clinton Grove Elementary School in Clinton and $4.4 million at Stephen Decatur Middle School, which is also located in Clinton.

The request to the state also asks for planning approval for several projects, including DuVal High School in Lanham, Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, Charles Carroll Middle School in New Carrollton and James E. Duckworth Elementary School in Beltsville. Those projects are designed to allow students with disabilities to interact with their peers. The renovations will address the special education programs and improve the existing structures.

Also included in the funding request are renovations at Glenarden Woods Elementary School in Glenarden and Samuel Chase Elementary School in Temple Hills.

DuVal and Gwynn Park high schools also are allotted money for renovations for reform programs that operate at the two schools.

Ovetta Wiggins covers Maryland state politics in Annapolis.

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