The Prince George's County Public School system opened its doors Monday to more than 123,000 students--plus a new school building and an array of new academic programs. PGPCS is the first major DC-area system to open for the new school year.
"We are pleased that the school year got off to a smooth start and look forward to a great year,” said Verjeana M. Jacobs, chair of the Prince George’s County Board of Education.
“Students came to school today ready to learn, thanks to our outstanding faculty, staff and parents. Teachers and principals spent countless hours up until the first bell rang to prepare their classrooms and students. In dealing with all of the moving parts that a new school year brings, parents have been patient and flexible."
Those preparations included a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open a new Greenbelt Middle School. The $53.6 million, two-story facility includes a media center, gymnasium, cafeteria and specialized classrooms for science, music, technology education, ESOL and special education. The building will house 1,000 students and is LEED (green) certified.
Middle school students will also begin extended school days this year, with 40 minutes per day of additional instruction. The extra time is to "enhance learning and accommodate revised bus routes," said PGCPS.
Students at Laurel Elementary School arrived to a fleet of buses, lined up to ferry them to their temporary location at the old Greenbelt High School. Classes are being relocated to the facility while renovations are being completed at Laurel ES.
At county high schoools, new programs called called "career academies" are being launched. Schools will each focus on different career study areas, to include:
- Architecture and Design (Suitland)
- Engineering and Science (DuVal)
- Graphic Arts, Media and Communication (DuVal)
Programs started last year are continuing at other county schools. Gwynn Park High School is the second school to host PGCPSinformation technology-focused (IT) program. The freshman-oriented program was launched last August at Fairmont Heights High School, and allows students the opportunity to earn professional IT certifications. Sophomores can take AP Computer Science and engineering classes. A third program will be added later at DuVal High School.
The county's High School Fire Science Cadet Program will also continue, kicking off with 20 students from Charles Herbert Flowers High School. The program, in partnership with Prince George's County Fire/EMS, trains students to become firefighters and emergency medical technicians and graduate with as many as 17 college credits.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and other special guests will visit Northwestern High School in Hyattsville on Thursday to participate in a discussion about hunger in the classroom. Gov. Martin O’Malley and Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery have also been invited to attend.