Tag Archives: Students

‘A ticking time bomb’: MS-13 threatens PGCPS school, warn teachers, parents, students

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Prince George’s County police cruisers were parked outside William Wirt Middle School in Riverdale, Md., in May. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Michael E. Miller

The boys had once been friends before MS-13 began recruiting one of them. Now, as other students streamed to class one April morning at William Wirt Middle School in Riverdale, Md., the two teens squared off in the third-story bathroom — a fight captured by another student on his cellphone.

The MS-13 recruit threw a punch at his former friend’s head. His opponent ducked and tackled the 15-year-old, their sneakers squealing as they tumbled to the green tile floor.

“I like that,” someone shouted off-camera as the recruit tried to cover his head.

“That look like it hurt,” someone wrote under the video, which was uploaded to Instagram on April 19 and has been viewed more than 400 times.

Gang-related fights are now a near-daily occurrence at Wirt, where a small group of suspected MS-13 members at the overwhelmingly Hispanic school throw gang signs, sell drugs, draw gang graffiti and aggressively recruit students recently arrived from Central America, according to more than two dozen teachers, parents and students. Most of those interviewed asked not to be identified for fear of losing their jobs or being targeted by MS-13.

Although administrators deny Wirt has a gang problem, the situation inside the aging, overcrowded building has left some teachers so afraid that they refuse to be alone with their students. Many said they had repeatedly reported incidents involving suspected gang members to administrators, only to be ignored — claims supported by documents obtained by The Washington Post.

“Teachers feel threatened but aren’t backed up. Students feel threatened but aren’t protected,” one educator said. “The school is a ticking time bomb.”

The gang’s presence at Wirt comes at a time when the Trump administration has declared war on MS-13, and communities throughout the country are confronting a surge in MS-13-related violence.

Nearly a dozen parents told The Post they were worried about gang activity at the school, which is located 10 miles from the White House. Many said they were intent on transferring their kids. Several said they were scared their children would be killed.

One eighth-grader said she had been raped in the fall by a schoolmate in MS-13 — an attack that took place off school property and that she reported to police, but then recanted out of fear of the gang. Prince George’s investigators concluded the report was unfounded, but the girl said she now lives in fear the gang will stab her as she leaves school.

Rhonda Simley, the principal at Wirt, declined repeated requests for an interview.

“The principal is aware of concerns about gangs in the community, but has not experienced any problems in school,” Prince George’s County school system spokesman John White wrote in an email.

Prince George’s police, which has an officer stationed at the school, declined to discuss the allegations of gang activity.

“This is their house, so we’re going to defer to school leadership,” said police spokeswoman Jennifer Donelan. “If school security isn’t telling us about something, then we don’t know.”

As of May 1, police had been called to the school 74 times this school year, according to a police department tally requested by The Post.

Five students had been arrested for assault, drug possession and bringing a BB-gun into the building, White said in an interview.

Although teachers estimate there are only a dozen or so MS-13 members at the school, other students have banded together to resist them, leading to an arms race of sorts. Teachers said at least four knives and four BB-guns were found at Wirt this year, although White put the tally at two knives and one BB-gun.

“If someone doesn’t do something soon,” said the eighth-grade girl’s father, “there’s going to be a tragedy at that school.”

‘Completely out of control’

Evidence of MS-13’s sway at Wirt isn’t hard to find. Just follow the dirt path that winds from the edge of the school’s parking lot into the woods, across a stream and towards the rear of Parkdale High.

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A tree defaced by an MS-13 tag in the woods between William Wirt Middle School and Parkdale High School, where there was a near-fatal gang-related stabbing in February. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Here, a few hundred feet from both schools, the trees are covered in MS-13 graffiti. Empty beer cans, candy wrappers and crumpled assignments surround a stump blackened by fire. One tree trunk appears as if it has been used for knife practice.

Ten MS-13 members attacked a gang rival in these woods in February, hitting him in the back of the head with a baseball bat before stabbing him three times in the stomach, according to police. Eight Parkdale students were arrested, although only one had attended Wirt. Two months earlier, a shooting involving another Parkdale student and MS-13 sent both schools into lockdown.

Dozens of schools from Northern Virginia to Long Island to Boston are dealing with a resurgence of MS-13, which has been linked to a string of grisly killings throughout the country. The gang’s growth has been fueled by a wave of 200,000 teens who traveled to the United States alone to escape poverty and gang violence in Central America. The vast majority enroll in school and stay out of trouble, but a small percentage get involved in MS-13 here.

Nearly 5,000 of those unaccompanied minors have arrived in Prince George’s since 2012, affecting schools in Langley Park, Hyattsville, Beltsville and Riverdale. Wirt was struggling before the influx of so many vulnerable kids helped swell the school’s population by 50 percent.

Around 1,200 students now pack a building designed for 750, many housed in a dozen dilapidated trailers. Nine out of 10 students who walk up Wirt’s rainbow-colored front steps receive free or reduced lunch and most are not reading or doing math at grade level.

They are being educated at one of the county’s oldest middle schools, slated to be replaced by 2020 after years of leaks and mold. Simley, a first-time principal who arrived at the school in 2016, is the school’s third leader since 2014.

Many teachers said they care deeply about the school’s unaccompanied minors, who are often traumatized by the journey to the United States, alienated from relatives here and isolated by their limited English. But they also said a small number of these children are more than troubled: They are MS-13.

One educator was stunned when, at the beginning of the school year, a handful of students continually shouted obscenities and threw objects around the classroom. The educator soon noticed the same students scrawling “MS-13” on papers, desks and their skin. They bullied Spanish-speaking classmates and sexually harassed the girls in class. Several students openly counted cash, allegedly money earned from selling marijuana in Wirt’s bathrooms, transactions that a student and several parents also described to The Post.

But administrators brushed aside complaints, the educator said, and the behavior spread to other students.

White denied administrators have ignored complaints of gang activity, adding that neither school security guards nor the police officer there had reported problems.

Documents obtained by The Post supported the educator’s account, however. And other employees offered similar stories. One recalled how MS-13 members bullied a girl so badly she dropped out of the school.

Fights have increased dramatically as MS-13 pressures recent arrivals to join the gang, teachers said. Several said suspected MS-13 members have burst into classrooms and attacked students.

“We now have two to three fights per day,” one instructor said. “At this point, it’s completely out of control.”

White played down those reports.

“Do fights occur at the school? Yes, but they occur at schools across the country,” he said. “Until we have evidence that [gang activity] was the cause of the fight, we don’t know. And so far, we haven’t found that evidence.”

White said there have been 32 suspensions this year for fighting.

In a recent emergency staff meeting, the principal attributed an uptick in violence to a “race war” between Hispanics — who make up roughly 80 percent of the school — and black students, according to people present.

White acknowledged Simley used those words but said she was urging her staff to intervene to prevent a “race war.”

Teachers said the fights haven’t been over race but resistance to MS-13.

One Hispanic eighth-grader told The Post that he and other U.S.-born students — black and Latino — banded together after an attack by knife-wielding MS-13 members last summer.

Many fights are arranged ahead of time via social media, filmed in the bathroom and then uploaded to private accounts on Instagram or Snapchat with names like “William Wirt Fights.” The videos are a recruitment tool for MS-13.

“They only post them when they win,” the eighth-grader said.

White said the school is aware of the videos but did not consider them gang-related.

Fighting tends to intensify in the spring, which teachers call “recruitment season.” They described seeing older kids — including former students now at Parkdale or other local high schools — loitering just beyond the boundaries of the school.

In the past, officers from Prince George’s police gang unit came to the school to teach employees to recognize indicators of MS-13 affiliation, like hand signs, light blue clothing, colored rosaries and Nike Cortez shoes.

But this year, the gang unit never came, leaving first-year teachers to figure it out on their own — in some cases, too late.

“The jumping, the recruitment, they are trying to do it here,” said Maureen Williams, an eighth-grade science instructor. She said she was familiar with MS-13 from years of teaching in Los Angeles, where the gang was founded in the 1980s. But at Wirt, she said administrators and police didn’t seem to be taking the issue seriously.

“They are not doing enough,” Williams said. “They need to get a grip on it before it proliferates.”

One of her colleagues described the administration’s stance on gangs as “don’t ask, don’t talk about it.”

White said the school takes gang activity seriously, but the situation has improved since last year to the point that the principal no longer felt the need for a gang unit meeting.

Some employees said they are worried the school’s inaction will result in bloodshed. One recalled watching school officials pull a large folding knife from a student’s pocket after receiving a tip he intended to stab someone. But that student was back in class two weeks later.

“These kids are getting a slap on the wrist,” that educator said. “The school has enabled the gang through its lack of enforcement.”

Teachers said they frequently aren’t informed when students were suspended — even for bringing weapons — and that serious incidents often aren’t entered into students’ records.

White said the school follows county guidelines on discipline and that teachers aren’t required to be notified why students are suspended. Students had been suspended 168 times this year, he said, but none had been expelled.

“Without metal detectors, which we do not have, we do our best . . . to identify any dangerous activity at schools,” he said.

Several educators said they have been threatened by students in MS-13. Two teachers said they are worried gang members have identified their cars and could follow them home. At least one female teacher was sexually harassed by a suspected gang member, her colleagues said.

“There is a genuine risk,” one said, “but the school is pretending the problem doesn’t exist.”

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William Wirt Middle School seen from the woods where there was a near-fatal MS-13-related stabbing in February. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

‘Look what I have here’

It began with a photo.

The girl had recently arrived in the United States, one of about 1,000 unaccompanied minors placed with relatives in Prince George’s County last year. When her uncle gave her some Nike Cortez sneakers, the 14-year-old posted a picture of herself wearing them online.

Then the threats began.

“Which [gang] do you represent?” asked an older girl in Spanish on Facebook last fall. “If you wear Corteses you know what kind of trouble you’re in.”

The girl said she didn’t mean anything by it, but it was too late.

“I already have you being watched,” the older girl said. “You go to William [Wirt] and you’re in 8th [grade] and I also know where you live.”

Days later, the girl was sleeping when she began receiving messages from a boy, she recalled. It was well after midnight, but the seventh-grader told her to come outside, where he and some friends were waiting in a car. When she didn’t reply, he began angrily calling her. They were MS-13, she recalled him saying, and if she didn’t come out then they would come in and kill her and her family.

They took her to an apartment where the boy showed her an array of knives.

“He said he could cut my guts out,” she told The Post.

The girl described the attack to Prince George’s and Bladensburg police that day. She said her assailant chose her from several girls at the apartment.

“He said, ‘I’m taking this one,’ ” she told a female officer, according to a recording her father made of the interview. “He began to touch me. The other ones left, and he began to take off my clothes.”

When she told him to stop, he took out a knife and said, “Look what I have here,” she said.

“Then he began to rape me,” the girl told police. “I began to cry because it hurt.”

Later, when a male officer questioned her, however, the girl began to worry the gang would come after her so she recanted, she told The Post.

The girl spent the next couple of weeks at home, angry and depressed, she said. When she returned to school, she and her father met with school officials. She said she told them she had been raped by a student in MS-13, and identified him, but the school took no action.

White said the school was aware the girl had disappeared from home but not of her rape allegation. It was up to police to investigate incidents outside school, he said, although the school offers students counseling and support.

Other families told similar stories about MS-13 violence and intimidation. One Honduran mother said her 15-year-old son came home with a broken hand at the beginning of the school year. When he was injured a second time this year, she pressed him for details. The eighth-grader eventually told her that MS-13 members had made him fight another student in the bathroom.

Then he suffered a concussion after another fight this spring, and she took him to the hospital for the third time. A psychologist who spoke to her son came away so worried, he gave her a note to take to school.

“He said, ‘If you don’t protect your son, the next time you bring him to the hospital he’s going to be dead,’ ” the mother recalled.

The school assigned one of its three security guards to watch over her son when he changed classes or ate lunch, she said. But as soon as the guard was absent, her son was jumped by MS-13, she said.

She has seen videos of him fighting inside the school and fears that he is now being pressured to join the gang. When she peeked at his phone, she found a message from an MS-13 member saying the devil was angry with him and to watch his back. “I don’t know how to make him understand that I’m worried about him, worried for his life,” she said.

Another mother said she had brought her son to America as a baby to escape gang violence in El Salvador. So she was shocked when her boy, now 13, told her MS-13 was trying to recruit him at Wirt.

“They told me if I didn’t fight, they’d stick the knife in me,” she recalled him saying. She, too, saw videos of her son fighting in the school’s bathrooms. And she, too, went to the school to demand it do something.

“Many kids have disappeared because of this gang,” she said she told a school counselor. The school assigned a security guard to watch over him, too, she said.

Some parents said they had tried taking away phones or deactivating social media accounts to prevent their kids from being recruited. When one mother let her son use her phone, she received a message from an MS-13 member saying the gang was going to cut out his tongue.

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Bullets allegedly left in the hoodie of an eighth-grade student at William Wirt Middle School by an MS-13 member. (Obtained by The Washington Post)

The girl who alleges she was raped said the same boy also threatened her with a gun he brought to school, and another MS-13 member put two bullets in her hoodie as a warning.

The girl said she reported the gun incident to security but not finding the bullets. White said the gun incident was not reported.

The girl is now being recruited by members of MS-13’s rival, 18th Street gang, her father said. He panicked when she disappeared from school in early May. Police found her at an 18th Street hangout.

Her father has started driving her to and from school each day for protection. Next year, he said, she will be attending a high school where the gang has less of a presence. But first, she has to finish eighth grade.

As she walked down Wirt’s rainbow steps one May afternoon, she passed the MS-13 member who had left the bullets in her hoodie.

“I’m going to give you such a beating, girl,” he muttered in Spanish, she said, as a Prince George’s police officer sat in his squad car a few feet away.

Before she could react, her father appeared at the end of the stairs. He put his arm around her and guided her to the car. She slid into the back seat and slammed the door, staring out the window as Wirt slipped out of sight.

Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.

via Washington Post

Read more:

‘I’m not going anywhere,’ rapped a defiant MS-13 gang member. Days later, he was dead.

She thought she’d saved her daughter from MS-13 by smuggling her to the U.S. She was wrong.

‘You feel the devil is helping you’: MS-13’s satanic history

Trump’s MS-13 crackdown: Going after suspected gang members for immigration violations

‘Vying for control’: How MS-13 uses violence and extortion in America’s jails

Scandals Affirm Maryland As an emerging Union Corruption Capital.

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PGCPS CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell meets with Md. State Board of Education to discuss grade-fixing audit

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Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell

BALTIMORE – The head of Prince George’s County Public Schools faced the Maryland State Board of Education Tuesday, the first time since a troubling state audit showed grade-fixing and policy violations allowed students to graduate without meeting state requirements.

At the hearing, state board members pressed Dr. Kevin Maxwell on the root causes of the findings and whether there has been a shift in culture in the school system.

“It seems like something is going on here,” said Maryland State Board of Education President Andrew Smarick. “I don’t want to go too far, but it seems like some signal, something is happening to suggest to schools, to teachers, to someone, ‘We gotta graduate these students irrespective of some of these rules we have.’ And that is what I have been grappling with here.”

Smarick noted some of the most outstanding audit findings — grade changes that could not be verified, late changes to student transcripts and students graduating despite more than 50 unexcused absences.

In response to questions about the driving forces behind the audit findings, Maxwell spoke about staff confusion on grade change forms, lack of automation, high staff turnover and people who were not clear on policies. He emphasized the audit found no intimidation or fraud by him or his staff.

After the hearing, FOX 5 asked him again about the underlying causes of the problems uncovered.

“The audit, I think, gave us a very good roadmap to the fact that there are some issues that need clarification, there are some procedures that need to be updated, there is a lot of training and there are some compliance issues,” Maxwell said.

At one point, a school board member asked whether emphasis on graduation rates by the state and federal government was to blame, but Maxwell did not agree that outside pressure was a factor.

Maxwell and his staff outlined their plan to correct what was found by the audit and the ways the school district is tightening up policies, putting more oversight in place and retraining staff.

Janna Parker, a Prince George’s County community member who attended the meeting, said the plan is a good first step, but feels what she did not see from Maxwell was accountability at the top.

“I think when you base any plan on not fully accepting accountability or placing the accountability on who and where it needs to be, it’s flawed plan,” Parker said.

When asked about Gov. Larry Hogan’s recent statement that some of what is going on in Prince George’s County Public Schools is criminal, Maxwell said he did not agree with the governor.

Smarick said the state board is now going to decide how and if the state will intervene in the school system and what is legally possible. He said there should be decisions made by the next meeting in February.

There could be another audit, and while there has been no public talk of the state taking over Prince George’s County Public Schools, it is something that’s happened in other states.

After the meeting on Tuesday, the state released graduation rates for districts across the state. Prince George’s County had a record high of 82.7 percent for 2017.

via Fox 5DC  >>>Read more >>>Washington Post

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4 Empty PGCPS School Buses Catch Fire in Parking Lot

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Fire officials say four school buses caught fire in a parking lot, causing a quarter of a million dollars in damage.

The Prince George’s County Fire Department says the fire was reported about 9 a.m. Sunday in the Brandywine area at a school bus parking on Short Cut Road. Four buses were on fire.

The fire was extinguished and no one was injured. Investigators believe the fire originated in one of the buses and then spread.

The cause remains under investigation.

Damages are estimated at $250,000.

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Prince George’s Co. bus drivers worried office infested with mold

IMG_9153PRINCE GEORGE’S CO., MD (WUSA9) – Bus drivers with Prince George’s County Public Schools say the office they check in and out of every day is making them sick. Many are worried the building is infested with mold.

“It’s unbearable. When you go in there you just smell some kind of weird odor”, said driver Kirt Williams. “And then after that your throats starts scratching and your nose feels kinda funny. And with me, my eyes get real watery.”

The building is a temporary trailer, but Driver Tujuana Bigelow said it has been there for about twenty years old.

“It’s hard- our foreman is in such bad shape being in that building all day long he was in the emergency room last night,” she said. “So I mean we can’t continue to work in this environment.

One hundred and eight bus drivers go in and out of the building each day.

Officials with the PGCPS said the building had been tested earlier this week to confirm whether there is mold.

Prince George’s County School Board member Edward Burroughs III said he’s been waiting at the site all week for testing crews- that didn’t show up.

“Frankly, I’m livid,” he said. “And if it has been tested Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday where are the results? We need to make those results public.”

The building was tested Wednesday afternoon.

Susan Nelson is among others who are now wearing face masks when they go into work.

“It feels like your throat is stopping up for one thing, you nose gets discomfort, very much so, and your eyes water,” she said.

via WUSA9

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The big problem with early childhood education

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In this Washington post, which appeared on Valerie Strauss’s “Answer Sheet” blog, Nancy Carlsson-Paige explains that the biggest problem in early childhood education today is the erosion of time for play.

Carlsson-Paige is an emeritus professor at Lesley College, where she taught teachers of early childhood. She explains in this post that the changes in the recent past have damaged children and their classrooms.

She said, in a recent speech:

For the last 15 years or so, our education system has been dominated by standards and tests, by the gathering of endless amounts of data collected to prove that teachers are doing their job and kids are learning. But these hyper requirements have oppressed teachers and drained the creativity and joy from learning for students. Unfortunately, this misguided approach to education has now reached down to our youngest children.

In kindergartens and pre-K classrooms around the country we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in play. There are fewer activity centers in classrooms and much less child choice, as well as less arts and music. At the same time, teacher directed instruction has greatly increased, along with more scripted curriculum and paper and pencil tasks.

Play is very important in child development, she says:

Children all over the world play. They all know how to play, and no one has to teach them how. Any time we see a human activity that is wired into the brain and accomplished by all children worldwide, we know it is critical to human development.

So much is learned through play in the early years that play has been called the engine of development. Children learn concepts through play; they learn to cope and make sense of life experiences; and, they develop critical human capacities such as problem solving, imagination, self regulation and original thinking.

She notes that early childhood educators were never at the table when government officials, think tanks, testing companies, and standards writers decided that play didn’t matter. It does matter, and strangely enough, we need to fight to defend the right of children to play.

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PGCPS system looks for answers to Mt. Rainier enrollment woes

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Thomas Stone Elementary is nearly 200 students over capacity. The school is slotted to hold 574 students, but currently enrolls 746. That puts the elementary school at nearly 130 percent utilization.

MOUNT RAINIER – A major problem faces one small city in Prince George’s County as it tries to tackle the tale of two elementary schools.

Mount Rainier, in Northern Prince George’s County, is in the middle of a problem that is not uncommon for the northern area: overcrowding. However, while one elementary school, Thomas Stone Elementary, struggles with finding room to place more students, across town Mount Rainier Elementary is dealing with an issue that is quite the opposite. Mount Rainier Elementary is in the midst of an enrollment decline.

According to number provided by the school system, Thomas Stone Elementary is nearly 200 students over capacity. The school is slotted to hold 574 students, but currently enrolls 746. That puts the elementary school at nearly 130 percent utilization. In contrast, Mount Rainier Elementary can hold 406 students but currently has 315 students, making the school 78 percent utilized.

Rhianna McCarter, a pupil accounting and school boundaries staffer, spoke with a group of about 30 parents with the help of translator to inform the families of both elementary schools about the options Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) has to balance enrollment in the area.

“The last time (Mount Rainier Elementary) had a boundary change was in 2003 and that was when Cottage City was reassigned to Rodgers Heights (Elementary). Thomas Stone in 2006 had a boundary change,” McCarter said.

Elizabeth Chaisson, a planner with PGCPS, said part of the reason for the urgent need to address the overcrowding issue is the lack of boundary changes over the past several years. She said PGCPS has hesitated to make changes because residents and political leaders alike recoil at the mention of boundary changes.

“People get very upset. They feel, ‘I moved to this neighborhood. This is my school. Don’t change it,’” Chaisson said. “The bottom line is we’re here tonight to talk about boundaries and people don’t like boundary changes, so we’re here to get your feedback about what the best change is for your community.”

The school system has slotted Thomas Stone for renovation in phase two of its 20-year capital improvements plan, but that is approximately six years away from initial discussions of funding, and both Chaisson and McCarter said a solution is needed in the meantime.

Previously PGCPS held a meeting on several different enrollment issues in the northern area of the county at Bladensburg High School on Oct. 28. Approximately five residents from Mount Rainier attended that meeting and requested a follow up.

As a possible interim measure, McCarter said, PGCPS has opened up the possibility of families volunteering to transfer from Thomas Stone to Mount Rainier, though it has not been effective.

“As we look toward possible solutions, one of them is the idea of getting students to volunteer to transfer,” she said. “Right now there is fewer than 20 students that have taken advantage of that opportunity. So, that hasn’t really been an effective solution so far.”

However, McCarter said the school system is currently looking at three different options to solve the enrollment issues at the two schools, but also said PGCPS is open to, and really wants input and ideas from the community.

The three ideas presented to those gathered all dealt with ways to increase numbers at Mount Rainier and decrease those at Thomas Stone and include: 1. creating a major boundary change to reroute the eastern-most portion of the city (the Kaywood Gardens Apartments and surrounding areas), areas of Brentwood essentially between the midsection of the town and Route 1 and all of North Brentwood to Mount Rainier Elementary, and moving all sixth grade students to their boundary middle school, 2. moving pre-k and Early Start classes to Mount Rainier, or 3. making a minor boundary adjustment to reroute Kaywood Gardens to Mount Rainer, which McCarter said would have “no material impact on enrollment at either school.”

All of the homes in Mount Rainier, Brentwood and North Brentwood are within the “walk zone” for Mount Rainier Elementary, meaning they are within 1.5 miles and transportation would not be provided for the students to get to school.

At the end of the meeting, parents and community members were given a feedback sheet to rank the three options and provide their ideas for more options. Several residents asked for another follow-up meeting held at Mount Rainier Elementary.

McCarter said PGCPS would try to schedule another meeting before Kevin Maxwell, chief executive officer of PGCPS, presents his recommendation to the school board on Jan. 19. A public hearing for the changes is anticipated on Feb. 2, 2017.

via prince George’s county sentinel

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Mount Rainier Elementary can hold 406 students but currently has 315 students, making the school 78 percent utilized. The school is less than a mile from Thomas Stone Elementary.

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PGCPS to no longer cover cost of AP exam for all students.

– Students in Prince George’s County are outraged after learning they will have to start paying for their Advanced Placement exams.

The tests used to be paid for by Prince George’s County Public Schools. But now, due to a budget decision plan, the test will no longer be paid for.

It costs around $90 a student for each advanced placement tests and Prince George’s County Public Schools says it cannot afford the half-million dollars it spends every year on paying for the tests, so it’s pulling the plug on the funding. There will be exceptions, but school board member and Parkdale High School senior Juwan Blocker says the timing is terrible.

“We are just now finding out about this, and students – they’ve just now signed up for AP classes planning on taking these tests at the end of this year. So for you to now inform students and parents to pay $93 if they’re not on free or reduced lunch – that’s ridiculous,” said Blocker.

“We are certainly sensitive to students in extreme financial circumstances so we will continue to pay for those students who qualify for free and reduced meals and we will also pay for students who get a three, a four or a five on the exam,” said Raven Hill, a spokesperson for Prince George’s County Public Schools.

Some students say they are not giving up without a fight. There is an online petition that already has 1,500 signatures. Students say they’re going to pack the Board of Education meeting on October 13 to have their voices heard.

via Fox 5 DC

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