A Prince George’s County project to build six schools using a public-private partnership was approved by an overwhelming majority of the school board Wednesday night.

The decision clears the way for negotiation of a $1.2 billion contract to build and maintain the schools, as part of a project led by Fengate Capital Management and Gilbane Development Co.

Supporters praised the first-of-its kind initiative, making the case that children in Maryland’s second-largest school system deserve better, more modern schools.

More than 40 percent of school district buildings were constructed nearly 60 years ago and need replacement or complete renovation, according to school officials.

“Too many generations of my district have been in old and outdated schools,” said Board Member Belinda Queen.

Eleven members voted in favor, with Raaheela Ahmed opposed and David Murray abstaining. The student board member does not vote on budget issues.

Ahmed said the school system — with more than 200 schools — has a broader problem with its capital projects program, and that $1.2 billion was a substantial sum. She expressed skepticism about the cost, timeline and financing, arguing there should have been more transparency.

“This is just six schools, and we have a responsibility for our whole district,” she said.

Hundreds of emails to poured in about the project, board members said — some arguing for it and others demanding greater accountability and transparency.

The Prince George’s County Council voted in support of the project. Earlier criticism had focused on whether there was enough involvement of minority-owned businesses.

County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) urged support of the effort earlier Wednesday, saying it would create generational opportunities for small, minority and county-based businesses and create space for 8,000 students.

“This has been a long time coming,” she said.

Prince George’s County reopened this fall in an all-virtual mode, saying remote learning would last through at least late January. In December officials are slated to begin a decision process about instruction for second semester.