Where will my kids go to school?

school-bus.jpgThis will be one of the first questions parents ask as they consider moving to the Cafritz or Landy developments. The quality of area schools, particularly elementary schools, is frequently used as a major selling point for parents or planning-to-be-parents–and easily can make or break a deal.

In the case of the Cafritz Property, will children attend Riverdale, Paint Branch or University Park Elementary? The property currently falls into the cachement area for University Park Elementary, which is over enrolled. Will boundaries be changed and Calvert Hills and Cafritz students be bussed to Paint Branch, which is under enrolled relative to other area schools?

Future students residing in the humongous Landy Property buildings face somewhat of a crap shoot. Students in the adjacent University Hills neighborhood attend University Park Elementary, while students from Toledo Terrace attend one of three elementary schools, depending on their address.

These two developments alone intensify the need for a new elementary school in the geographic area covered by Councilmanic Districts 2 and 3, especially as Prince George’s County Public Schools brings pre-K classes to elementary schools and temporary classrooms proliferate to accommodate more students. But there’s more development planned, of course. The process that lead to Rosa Parks Elementary took over four years of hard work as various sites were considered and rejected.

As we evaluate what contribution to the Route 1 area communities these two developments will make, schools need to be a primary concern (despite the seduction of a Whole Foods). For many employers and residents, school performance and population is a major worry. As part of the county’s urban tier, we expect high density development, but should be doing everything we can to encourage that it be well-planned, sustainable and mixed use. Our schools should not suffer.

Will Route 1 area developers adequately address these issues prior to receiving final Planning Board approval? It is a question that must be asked and answered satisfactorily by residents, Council Members Will Campos and Eric Olson and the School Board now, rather than later. While the school system as a whole is under enrolled, our area is not.

One reasonable alternative is to get behind Eric Olson’s suggestion that the Cafritz site be developed as an over-55 community. There are few in our county and it makes good marketing and demographic sense.

Schools are just one piece of a much bigger puzzle, however. The overarching issue remains: it is time for northwestern Prince George’s County to develop a comprehensive plan and community standards for growth.

9 Comments

Filed under Developers, Growth, Infrastructure, Schools

9 responses to “Where will my kids go to school?

  1. SnowMiser

    I could not agree more. The Landy proposal alone would add hundreds to each of the schools that cover the area. The development is great for the area as a whole, but it does not seem the county is ready to address the need for additional schools and/or expansion of the existing schools. Towns (Hyattsville & Riverdale) should require to have developers address the school requirements into their principa; statements.

  2. The schools are already overcrowded. If we have zero development then we need one or more high schools, at least one middle school and one elementary school.

    We failed to acquire a high school because it was impossible to find a suitable site that could accomodate three thousand students. We probably have to build several smaller high schools, which make for a better learning environment anyways.

    Even if the Cafritz project will be an elderly community, we still have to insist that the state and county address the existing deficit speedily.

    Developers need to join us in that effort.

  3. Colin Phillips

    I wholly agree that these new developments will impact local schools, but I am not sure that the best solution to this is to develop the Cafritz Property for an age-restricted community that will add few new children. I am also skeptical of whether this is an ideal solution to traffic concerns.

    The county planning approval process already requires developers to address the impact of new housing on local schools, including an impact fee system (search for ‘Mazza’ on Rethink College Park for much discussion of this). An influx of new families to our area may create temporary congestion, but it may also be the best way to make school improvements in this area a high priority for a county that has no shortage of other schooling issues to worry about. A strength of the local schools is the high level of parent involvement and advocacy, and I would imagine that the same parents who would pay a premium to live across the street from a Whole Foods would be strong advocates for neighborhood schools. No such benefit from an age-restricted community.

    More generally, shouldn’t we be hoping that developments like Cafritz and Landy (and the many others currently in the works) will allow more of the thousands who currently commute to this area to choose to live here? The people who are most attracted to moving to this area may be the people who already have to come here for work and who would like to consolidate their work and family lives. To the extent that this is true, new development could even help to lower traffic congestion – and pollution – by reducing the number of commuters on Route 1. Developments targeted at retirees couldn’t reduce the number of people commuting to College Park.

    I should add that the ‘intergenerational housing’ planned for the Mosaic at Turtle Creek condo development (Mowatt Lane, close to UM Business School) seems like a senior-friendly development that is well suited to the local situation. This increasingly popular concept targets those seniors who are particularly attracted to the cultural, intellectual, and recreational opportunities of a college town. It will be built on rezoned UM land, it will be genuine walking distance from campus amenities, and it will seek strong connections to town and campus activities.

  4. PGCist

    I remember the idea of a University “Lab School” was floated around in 2004 for the CP Friends School property.

    Now that the CP City Hall is going there, couldn’t Hyattsville or Riverdale Park ask UMCP for help? Maybe a K-12 school for gifted area students w/ incentives to attend UMCP (or even PGCC)? It would at least relieve the student burden (a bit) and would be better received by the area towns.

  5. Colin Phillips

    Yes, this sounds attractive, and similar projects have worked well in other cities. For example, I gather that UPenn has taken a great interest in elementary schools in West Philadelphia as a part of its neighborhood revitalization efforts. Unfortunately, this may be easier for a private university than for a public university like UM. The university is not allowed to use public resources to effectively create a competitor to PG County Schools. I am not familiar with all of the details of the effort involving the CP Friends School property, but my impression is that it was state policy rather than university or City of CP openness that provided the main barrier.

  6. Good news, PGCist. The College Park town hall will not go to the Friends School. There is an opportunity to create a new public school there.

  7. PGCist

    Colin – Good points. UMCP is certainly in competition w/ daycare providers in the area.

    PGCPS needs more competition, in my opinion. The Archdiocese of Washington (ADW) schools are head & shoulders above most public schools in the county. I can attest to this as an alum of ADW schools in Oxon Hill & Forestville in 1980′s – 90′s. The public high schools in those areas were rife w/ discipline problems and violence. Sad but true.

    hellmut – Good news on the Friend’s School Property. Maybe a wealthy UMCP alumni donor could be the funding source, rather than the State?

  8. Hellmut

    To be honest, PGCist, I am skeptical about a patron from the outside who will be our savior. It would sure be nice for someone to step up and bequeath us a large amount of money. The problem is that such schemes usually do not sustain the financial burden that come with additional infrastructure.

    Instead of relying on wealthy outsiders, we will achieve sustainable and inclusive results only if the community comes together.

    Besides, money is not the issue. The county has the money as the state has allocated funds for school construction. Dr. Deasy has a plan to allow for a large variety of specialty schools that accomodates almost anything we could wish for.

  9. I don’t agree with approving over-55 communities because the schools are overcrowded, or at all for that matter. Concentrating one group of people – be it low-income residents or the elderly – runs counter to the ideal of a diverse neighborhood.

    In Calverton, where I live, we have a senior complex called Riderwood Village with some three thousand apartments – and, of course, our schools are still overcrowded. We should be accomodating whatever kids move in, not pushing them out. Use the Cafritz property to its greatest potential – don’t turn it into a old folks’ home.

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