Imagine to take over Queen Anne School in Upper Marlboro
Charter program also slated to reopen in closed Morningside Elementary building
An Upper Marlboro charter school is on track to move into the nearly 50-year-old Queen Anne School building in Upper Marlboro next academic year, leaving parents of current Queen Anne students feeling betrayed and scrambling to enroll their children into a new educational facility before September.
The nearly completed deal between the vestry of St. Barnabas Episcopal, which founded the school in 1964 as an independent operation, and Imagine Foundations Public Charter School comes after the church announced in January it could no longer afford to keep Queen Anne alive. Parents and alumni had organized a fundraising effort started Feb. 9 to keep Queen Anne going at its current location at 14111 OakGrove Road as an independent nonprofit organization.
Despite the parents' and graduates' attempt to maintain control of the school, an Imagine official said the charter school's deal with St. Barnabas would be finalized in the next couple of weeks, saying the deal had reached the "signature" stage. The official did not want to be identified because the agreement has not been finalized.
Prince George's County Public Schools spokeswoman Lynn McCawley, who confirmed Imagine's planned move to Queen Anne, also stated a second Imagine charter school will open this fall at the Morningside Elementary School building, which was closed in 2009 during countywide school consolidations. She said that program will accept new students in kindergarten through second grade.
An April 11 enrollment memo sent to Imagine's families states, "The new location of the school will be 14111 OakGrove Road, Upper Marlboro, MD 20774 (formerly Queen Anne's School)." A church leader also confirmed an agreement is nearly reached.
The Imagine official anticipates nearly all of the current Upper Marlboro charter school's 337 students will move into the former Queen Anne building, and its current location at 4605 Brown Station Road in Upper Marlboro will be closed.
Imagine's present site is a little more than a seven-mile drive from the Queen Anne Site. The official said the charter school was attracted to Queen Anne's spacious 50-acre campus. The charter school teaches kindergarten through seventh grade, while Queen Anne teaches sixth through 12th grade.
The Imagine official was not sure what would happen to Queen Anne's current student population, but said that the lottery to fill Imagine has already been completed.
Queen Anne School parent Tracey Ligon of Bowie, who lives four minutes from the school, said her daughter, Alexandria, now in seventh grade, "has been thriving and growing" at Queen Anne.
"We all know each other, the parents and the faculty, all of us have just sort of formed a family," Ligon said.
Ligon is among a number of parents involved in forming the nonprofit 501(C)3 organization called Rebirth School Inc. to reorganize Queen Anne as an independent operation. Ligon said she is upset the charter school appears to be being taken over.
"It just seems like such a shame. We have such a good thing going here. We're passionate, ready, willing and able to continue and it seems like such a shame," said Ligon, who is considering sending her daughter to schools as far away as Annapolis.
Clayton Cottrell, a member of the vestry, said the church was considering many ownership options but found Imagine's offer to be the steadiest.
"It was not an easy thing to close the school. It's always difficult, but with the economic situation as it had turned in our area, there was just no choice but to close it,"?Cottrell said. "We didn't have money to keep it open."
Imagine's financial stability, corporate management and understanding of quality education put it ahead of Rebirth's pledge-based funding proposal, Cottrell said.
Imagine's Upper Marlboro school is one of more than 70 schools operated by the Arlington-based Imagine Schools. Imagine will essentially pay rent to the vestry, but the details are still being negotiated, Cottrell said.
Gardner Duvall of Baltimore, a former chairman of the Queen Anne School's board who graduated in 1979, has led the effort to form Rebirth and said he is not giving up hope until he receives official word from the vestry.
"The school has a great tradition of educating leaders, and it stumbled with the great recession, but it has a real opportunity to come back and be better than ever," he said.
Queen Anne currently has a population of 95 students, down from a peak of 275 about five years ago, said Glenn Singer, the school's director of admission and development.
Sixty students have indicated they would return in the fall if the facility is reopened as an independent school, and another 50 potential new students said they would finish applying if Queen Anne reopens as an independent school, Singer said.
In April, Christiana Holyer, the head of Queen Anne, sent a letter to parents urging them to begin applying to other schools.
"If you have not yet submitted applications for new schools for your students, we encourage you to do so now. Windows of opportunity are quickly closing, even at the schools which have graciously agreed to extend deadlines for us," the letter reads.
Kimberly Leamon of Clinton said her 12-year-old daughter, Signe, who is in seventh grade at Queen Anne School, has had a positive experience during her two years at the school. The teachers push students to excel, and students are supportive of each other, Leamon said.
Leamon said she recently sat down with her daughter to talk about leaving Queen Anne.
"It's distressing because you have children in limbo who really don't know where they are going next year," she said. "They love their school and they don't understanding what's happening. They just want to stay where they are."