ANNAPOLIS – Prince George’s County schools expect a 4.5 percent increase in student enrollment by 2004. Already the county uses 435 temporary classrooms, the equivalent of 14 elementary schools. And it needs 26 new schools to bring an end to mandatory busing.
Hoping to improve their troubled school system, County Executive Wayne Curry, Superintendent Iris T. Metts, Prince George’s County delegates, senators and educators stood before the Board of Public Works Wednesday offering flattery and passionate speeches as they asked for $44 million for school construction – more than 60 percent of the $69 million offered by the board. The money would build 13 new schools and repair more.
Unlike the somber mood of the past where many leaders were absent and those who did attend wore long faces, leaders appealed excitedly to the board for money to build and repair schools.
“The opportunity to educate a child cannot be recaptured once it is lost,” school board Chairman James E. Henderson said. “The (students and teachers) deserve schools in which they and we can be proud.”
With Henderson’s words the 30 leaders, including Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George’s, applauded and cheered.
“Did I sound like a preacher?” he asked, and laughter filled the room.
Besides building the new schools, Curry said some of the money would go to repairing and renovating 15 old school buildings. An additional $2.98 million was requested to continue building Perrywood Elementary School, which will hold 750 students when it opens in November. And $7.7 million was requested to begin building a combination elementary and middle school in March or April. Money also will go to launch 10 technology projects.
“(This is) the rebirth of academic excellence,” Metts said. “The schools are the center of the revitalization and growth of Prince George’s County.”
Metts told the board she examined the structure of the school system to decide how to make it better.
“It’s not just the roof, not just the heating system, but where you can plug in a computer,” she said.
“We are at the bottom. But we don’t intend to stay there.”
The Board of Public Works is composed of the governor, Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, and Treasurer Richard N. Dixon. Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend filled in for Gov. Parris Glendening, who couldn’t attend the meeting because his wife is ill. Many of those in the Prince George’s delegation who spoke before the board preceded their comments with flattering words.
“To the greatest treasurer in all of these United States,” Sen. Ulysses Currie declared before asking the board to support the county’s requests.
“We have the greatest comptroller and lieutenant governor,” House Delegation Chairman Rushern L. Baker said, reiterating the need for money.
After the meeting, Prince George’s leaders were proud of their unified appeal for money.
“We were finally together,” Curry said. “It’s a historic moment.”