Prince George’s County officials requested $50.2 million in school construction funds Wednesday from the State Board of Public Works.
“We stand in need of additional buildings and capacity for students in Prince George’s County,” said Kenneth Johnson, chairman of the county Board of Education.
The county uses 433 portable classrooms in various of its schools, Johnson said, a number that equals the capacity of 14 elementary schools.
The county also is predicting a 6.1 percent rise in school enrollment by 2005.
Prince George’s County would put up $62 million in matching funds, County Executive Wayne Curry said.
While the county committed in a lawsuit settlement to build 13 schools, Curry said it will aim to double that number.
The county settled a court battle with the NAACP in 1998, ending a 25-year-old suit to desegregate schools, Johnson said. While efforts were made before to integrate students, the settlement allows students to again attend schools in their own neighborhoods.
Therefore, funding will partially be used to rebuild and enhance schools in African-American neighborhoods, as many of these schools have become run down, he said.
Funds will be used toward nine main projects, mainly toward construction at county elementary schools.
Iris Metts, superintendent of schools, said the money is needed to also enhance preschool education and obtain quality teachers, in addition to reducing class sizes.
“We would plead with you to look at our appeal,” Metts told the board. “We can move forward,” she said.
Delegate Rushern Baker, D-Prince George’s, added a personal touch to the appeal, by recounting a visit he made to his 6-year-old daughter’s class.
Students were split in two groups in the same classroom and were being taught by two different teachers, Baker said. He said he was concerned about how much the students were able to concentrate in such close quarters.