This 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.