Angered Prince George’s County parents are appealing the March 7 decision of schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell to close two schools in the district.
Skyline Elementary School and Forestville High School, as well as the Forestville Military Academy, will consolidate and close at the end of the current school year, according to Maxwell's decision.
The appeal was filed by parents Josette Williamson and LaShawn Jackson on behalf of children, students, parents and legal guardians of the two schools.
The parents alleged PGCPS failed to comply with the legal requirements necessary to the closing and consolidation process set forth by the Maryland State Board of Education, according to the appeal.
According to the school system, the schools are underpopulated, an argument used to make the administrative case for closure of both schools.
However, both Skyline Elementary School and the Forestville Military Academy were "systematically subject to a retraction in school boundary lines," which limited the number of households and students that were to use the schools as their neighborhood schools, the appeal alleged.
Jackson, whose child is a junior in the Forestville Military Academy, said she did not receive notice about Maxwell’s decision or that her child would be transferred to Suitland High School, according to the document.
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The appeal alleged Maxwell violated Maryland law by not providing written notice to parents of his proposed decision and rationale to close the schools and for not holding a public hearing about his decision.
Additionally, parents alleged the closing of Skyline Elementary School violates the Free Appropriate Public Educations for Students with Disabilities requirements under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires free appropriate public education to each qualified person with a disability within the school district’s jurisdiction.
As acknowledged by Maxwell in his fact sheet accompanying his decision, a majority of the students attending Skyline have been diagnosed with some form of autism, ranging from mild to severe on the autism spectrum, according to the appeal.
Williamson, whose child is a fourth-grader at Skyline Elementary School, is afraid that Barnaby Manor Elementary, the school her child is slated to attend, will not be suitable, the appeal said.
Parents at Skyline were never fully notified or briefed on the decision and have many unanswered questions concerning the ability of the receiving elementary schools to handle the special needs of their autistic children even after visiting those schools, according to the document.
A representative for the school said in a statement that consolidating schools is necessary to make sure schools function efficiently.
"The district understands that this is a difficult time for students, staff and the community. PGCPS is working to do everything possible to make this transition a smooth one for all involved," the representative said.