Prince George's Plan Would Close 12 Schools

Move would save $11.9M

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. -- In a proposal to save the Prince George's County school system $11.9 million, 12 schools would be closed next year, school officials said Thursday.

The schools that would be closed are a middle school and 11 elementary schools. Most are inside the Capital Beltway or the southern part of the county.   Click here for more on which schools are closing.

Six other schools would become five schools that would operate from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. One school would get a creative and performing arts program.

The students in schools to be closed would be sent to nearby schools or others with available space. The empty schools would be maintained; officials hinted the buildings could be used for specialty programs such as language immersion.

"I don't know where to begin," said school board member Pat Fletcher. Her district has eight of the schools planned for closure. "In looking at the maps that we have been given, I saw it coming because of the decrease in enrollment, the under-enrollment."

But Fletcher said she could support the plan if the schools were refilled with specialized programs available to her constituents.

"I think it is extremely important that if this consolidation is going to take place, if there are going to be significant programs in there, that the community dictates what programs need to go into those schools," Fletcher said.

The schools marked for closure are in areas of under-enrollment, and many are well below capacity. Some of the schools have a pattern of poor academic achievement. A few of the schools were in poor physical shape.

The closures are included in the $1.68 billion school budget proposal as part of a package of $106 million in cuts that would eliminate about 900 positions, shrink some programs and bump up class sizes in first through third grades.

"It provides us with a substantial cost savings," Interim Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said of the proposed closures. "We found more schools that were 60 percent or lower than their state-rated capacity. ... We're just proposing that as options to be considered."
Prince George's has 209 schools. The number to be closed was twice the total suggested last month when Hite presented the budget plan to the Board of Education. Then, he recommended saving $5.6 million by closing six schools.

If approved, the closures would mean the elimination of 235 jobs, including 12 principals, 10 assistant principals and 36 classroom teachers. The cuts also would affect other employees, including custodians, cafeteria workers, secretaries, counselors and educational specialists.

It is not clear whether the employees would be laid off or reassigned to vacant positions. Another 310 employees would be transferred, along with their students, to new schools.

Public hearings on the proposed closings and consolidations will be conducted before the school board takes a final vote.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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