Taking Notes: What’s happening at local schools

June 10, 2012

BY SUSIE CURRIE — This time next year, builders should be close to finishing a new elementary school at 3120 Nicholson Street, near Nicholas Orem Middle School. Scheduled to open in August 2013, it will serve local students as part of the Prince George’s County Public School system. A PGCPS spokesperson said that public hearings on boundaries will likely begin this fall.

Hyattsville Elementary School recently marked its 95th birthday as well as the end of the school year. At a party on June 2, principal Jeanne Washburn, who is retiring, adjusts the microphone for rising second-grader Ellis Hollingsworth. Photo courtesy Valerie Russell.

Hyattsville Elementary School recently marked its 95th birthday as well as the end of the school year. At a party on June 2, principal Jeanne Washburn, who is retiring, adjusts the microphone for rising second-grader Ellis Hollingsworth. Photo courtesy Valerie Russell.

The new slate of PGCPS principals is expected to come before the Board of Education at two meetings this month. One of them is likely to be assigned to Hyattsville Elementary School, as Principal Jeanne Washburn retires after eight years. Though some staff cuts are inevitable since the school lost its Title 1 status – and, with it, $200,000 for the coming school year – it looks like the bilingual parent liaison position, which many parents considered crucial, is safe. To avoid other staffing snafus, PTA officers urge parents to register new children early, instead of waiting until mid-August.

HES celebrated its 95th birthday with a June 2 party for students and alumni. A belated gift from the county should be ready to greet students in August: A new fence and retaining wall that will feature inset panels for mosaics, to be completed in future student-artist collaborations.

To stave off declining enrollment, a nationwide trend among parochial schools, Concordia Lutheran School began the year with a new principal. But Jeff Burkee, who brought 25 years of experience in similar schools to the job, knew he faced long odds. “People are shopping for schools differently today,” he told the HL&T soon after he accepted the job last summer. Now, they have one less option: After more than 60 years, Concordia has closed. A decommissioning of the campus is planned for September 16.

Two years ago, the newly rebranded St. Jerome Academy reversed its own trend of sinking enrollment by switching to a classical curriculum, the first of its kind in the nation. Since then, the program has spread to schools throughout the country and continues to draw media attention, including a mention this month in a Wall Street Journal article. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the Coach Brown Memorial Basketball Camp. Now in its 25th year of serving elementary-school students, it returns to the school gym August 6 to 10.

Most schools empty during the summer months. But St. Mark the Evangelist is already seeing more activity than it has since 2010, when students moved three miles away to the campus of St. Camillus to form St. Francis International School. A basketball camp, for students in kindergarten through 7th grade, runs through June 22. Then a day camp program, co-sponsored by Camp Fire USA, offers three two-week sessions beginning June 25. That’s when morning summer school starts, too, with private tutoring and High School Placement Test preparation available for an extra charge.

As part of a countywide shift, both Nicholas Orem and Hyattsville Middle School will see a longer day for the upcoming school year. All public middle schools will run from 9 a.m. to 4:20 p.m. Both schools sent students to various competitions this year. HMS narrowly missed tying the record for most wins in the 25th Annual Prince George’s County Science Bowl, defeated by the thinnest of margins (5 points) in the semifinals. Nicholas Orem had a strong showing in its first year at the Maryland SeaPerch Regionals, where 16 students pitted their remote-controlled underwater robots those from other county middle-schoolers.

At DeMatha Catholic High School, capital improvements continued this year with the installation of solar panels and the opening of a new science wing. Several of the 196 new graduates have scholarships in hand as well as diplomas, including Hyattsville native Ciaran Cain, one of only two National Merit Scholars in Prince George’s County. The sports program continued to shine as the soccer team won a national title, the wrestling team landed its 25th WCAC title in 27 years, the new track coach also landed a WCAC title, and the school hosted its first nationally televised event: a basketball game with archrival Gonzaga on ESPN2.

Nearly a quarter of Prince George’s County Public Schools had new principals this year, including Northwestern High School. Edgar Batenga seems to have gotten high marks all around; employees there named him Staff Person of the Year, and both students and teachers have noted “a calmer atmosphere,” according to PTSA officer Christine Cestello Hinojosa. The music program continued its winning streak this year at state and regional competitions, as four bands all scored ratings of “superior” or “excellent” while capturing first or second place in the contests. The school also took second place in Washington-Arlington Catholic Forensic League Metro Championships, earning them a spot in the national tournament. Coached by Curt Somers, the team placed in the top 100 in the nation. A group of 21 honors students will have a few more stamps on their passports when they return in the fall; this month, they will spend 10 days in China as part of the school’s International Studies Program.

 

 

 

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