Hollywood Elementary parents get their wish, but overcrowding remains
Board chooses not to redo school's boundary, send students elsewhere
North College Park parents have long lauded Hollywood Elementary School as their "neighborhood school," where as many as 93 percent of students live within walking distance. Despite the school's overcrowding, many parents bristled when Prince George's County school officials said school boundaries might be altered, forcing some students to attend other schools.
"A few parents have come and said that their kids have been here since kindergarten, and they hated to leave the school," said Principal Barbara Caskey. "They weren't exactly happy about it."
The county school board approved its final boundary plan Jan. 7 and decided not to alter the school's boundaries. Hollywood is still left to deal with its status as one of the county's most overcrowded elementary schools at 125 percent of the building's capacity.
The school is on pace to reach 161 percent of its capacity in 2015, according to county estimates. A December version of the board's plan would have moved about 56 of Hollywood's 445 students to nearby Paint Branch Elementary School, reducing Hollywood's enrollment to 108 percent of capacity.
Instead, the final plan settled on changes in five "priority" areas and 32 schools. Only six of the 32 schools affected have enrollments greater than 125 percent of their capacity, according to the county's revised boundary proposal.
Calverton Elementary School in nearby Beltsville which is operating at 131 percent of its capacity will switch from a kindergarten through sixth-grade school to a kindergarten through fifth-grade format next year and will send sixth-grade students to Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Beltsville and Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, which are now sixth- through eighth-grade schools.
School officials expect the change will help Calverton operate at 114 percent of capacity with an enrollment of about 671 students, compared to its current figure of 773.
Caskey said she expects the board to revisit Hollywood's overcrowding at a later date. The school has three temporary classrooms facilities located outside the main school building and Caskey said she is not sure whether it will need more next year.
Despite overcrowding, the school has performed well on the Maryland School Assessments. Last year, 84.7 percent of students tested proficient or advanced on the test's math portion, while 82.4 percent did the same in reading both figures ranked well above county averages of 64.3 and 74.3 percent.
Schools Superintendent William Hite Jr. released a 2011 budget proposal on Dec. 23 that indicated the county could increase recommended class sizes in grades four through 12 to 26 or 27 students, an increase of one student. If class sizes increase, Caskey said her school might not need to add any temporary classrooms.
Rather than continuing to redo boundaries, College Park officials have advocated that an addition be built onto Hollywood. However, county officials have said budget woes would make such a project unlikely in the next few years. No cost estimate has been provided for the expansion.
"I think the best option is for an expansion," said Councilman Patrick Wojahn (Dist. 1). "It's something that we're going to continue to advocate for, and it's something I hope they will pursue."
E-mail David Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org.